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Then there are moments when the sun shines again and my wings flutter and the heavens are singing.

For months, a developer here has been bugging the City to reduce or refund his traffic impact fees. He was able to talk the director into reducing them by half by applying a 50% pass-by factor, which I think was justified. These fees are charged per vehicle trip generated, and many trips to fast food and gas stations are pass-by or combined-trip events, not brand-new trips.

Then he found another loophole, or thought he had. When the factory outlet center was developed in 1994, it was part of a four-lot subdivision. The outlet center used one of the lots. A new freeway offramp used another. He contends that, because the traffic study for the project included estimates of trips generated by the remaining two parcels, that traffic fees paid for the factory outlet center developer included fees for the two outlying parcels.

Today I found the magic bullet. The actual calculations of fees done for the outlet center in 1994. Now, in many cities this would not be much of a biggie. You would expect to be able to find how fees were calculated in the past. PB is a little different that way, and records are simply not always available.

This city has an interesting past, including the Big Flood, during which many City records drowned, never to be seen again, and the Big Bribery, during which information on many permits simply walked out of the office, never to be seen again (although I've heard tales that some of these files are in some outbuilding somewhere near the railroad tracks. I haven't investigated.). On a wisp of hope I started digging in our planning files after exhausting the online files. I found a calculation, with neat handwritten corrections, which includes the fees to the penny and shows how they were calculated. Not only that, but it shows which fee resolution was used to determine the rate. This finance person is one after my very own heart. This kind of documentation is wonderful.

The fees are based on the square-footage of the buildings. Therefore, they were not based on estimated trips, with or without the two other parcels. There is no refund due to this developer.

I did enjoy writing the email. To tell the truth, though, I would have enjoyed writing it even if I had found that the fees did include the outlying parcels. The joy was in the finding of the documentation.


Judith Lautner
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January 2012


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