Traffic Impact Fee Program Bounced Back to Commission

After pulling consideration of a traffic impact fee program from the Planning Commission, Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors has agreed to have the commission finish the work it started.

At their Aug. 9 meeting, supervisors unanimously voted to have the commission advance recommendations on traffic impact fees. The commission had already taken up the issue on its own, triggering a letter from the board stating that supervisors should have discussed it first and then referred it to the commission.

Supervisor Rex Bohn described the board’s action as “trying to do some oversight on the commission” but Supervisor Virginia Bass said it’s more a matter of following correct process.

“We felt that maybe the Planning Commission was taking on a lot more than what was necessarily within their purview or what we’ve asked them to do,” she continued.

Traffic impact fees are charged to housing developers to compensate the county for road improvements associated with housing projects. Bohn noted that impact fees are especially relevant to his district, which includes the greater Eureka area.

But he added that the impact fee program could be applied to other areas of the county.

“It hasn’t morphed into (Second Supervisorial) District Two yet, but it very well could before it’s over,” Bohn said, adding that the impact fee already has potential to be applied to districts that include Eureka and Arcata.

Noting that the impact fee program has been in the works for many years, Bohn added, “It needs to finish someday.”

When the commission took up the traffic fee issue, county Department of Public Works staff gave presentations on it.

Board Chair Mark Lovelace said the process issue has to do with how to direct staff and use staff time. Public Works Director Tom Mattson asked for direction on what more his staff can do, since three presentations had already been given to the commission.

Lovelace questioned whether public works staff should have given the presentations since the fee program doesn’t appear to be the planning commission’s purview.

But during a public comment session, Julie Williams of the Northern California Association of Home Builders said the fee program is related to what housing developers do.

 “Anything that you do through public works — or a balloon going up in the air — that affects our industry, I’ve got to be able to answer to that, my guys have to be able to say that they can live with that dollar amount,” she continued.

Williams added that it’s ultimately an issue that affects homebuyers, as the cost of the impact fees would be worked into home prices.

Despite the doubt over whether the Planning Commission should have taken up the issue on its own, supervisors agreed that the commission should finish what it started and make recommendations to the board. Supervisors gave the commission 45 days to do that.