Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Development Dues

Article Launched: 11/06/2005 08:17:09 AM

Development Dues
Building Fees for Solano Below Average
By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

There are some pretty obvious factors that weigh into developers' decisions on where to build.

There's the cost of land, an ever-important influence in the continually burgeoning Bay Area. There's personal wealth - someone building a subdivision of 3,000-square-foot homes needs to know that there are people in that community who can afford a 3,000-square-foot home.

There's a workforce to consider. You wouldn't build a factory to employ 300 workers in a remote town with very low unemployment. Transportation and access also are important, as a warehouse with only a rural road connecting it with the outside world isn't going to be convenient for trucking.

Those are factors largely determined by outside forces, not by cities and counties hoping to draw a certain kinds of development to their community.

But there is one factor local governments can control. In one word, it can be described as "fees."

The San Joaquin Partnership, a nonprofit private-public economic development corporation based in Stockton, looked at the fees that 21 Northern California municipalities charge developers - from building permit fees to Mello-Roos payments and utility connection costs to assessment district charges.

In a report released in October, the partnership laid out the least expensive and most expensive cities in which to build regarding fees.

Along with a number of cities from San Joaquin County, including Lodi, Stockton, Tracy and Manteca, SJP also looked at Vacaville and Fairfield.

So, how do the Solano neighbors stack up?

For a single-family home, Vacaville and Fairfield's fee levels both were below the average for all communities studied.

The fees charged by Vacaville to a developer building a 2,000-square-foot home with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms came in right around $39,000. For Fairfield, the fees totalled about $42,000.

The average for all 21 jurisdictions surveyed was $46,000.

SJP also looked at multi-family residential development, retail and office buildings, warehouses and dry manufacturing.

For a 900-square-foot apartment unit, the fees in Vacaville amount to $24,000 - more than a third lower than the regional average of $37,000. Fairfield's fees total $26,000.

Developers will pay $711,000 in fees for a 65,000-square-foot retail project on 10 acres in Vacaville and $731,000 in Fairfield. The regional average for that is $1.2 million.

Builders of office space, however, can save some money by going to Fairfield rather than Vacaville.

Fees in Fairfield for a 50,000-square-foot office building amount to $478,000, 6.4 percent lower than Vacaville's fee total of $511,000 for the same project.

The study says that recent and oncoming developments such as the Vaca Valley Business Park, North Village and Nut Tree Village were used in the calculations of Vacaville's fees, while a number of citywide projects were used to measure Fairfield.

Tom Hall can be reached at

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