County staff proposes drop in TIF rates with fewer road projects

Nick Ortiz with San Diego County Department of Public Works transportation planning, second from left, explains proposed changes in the update on Transportation Impact Fees (TIF) to Ramona Community Plannig Group members, residents and developers. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard
Nick Ortiz with San Diego County Department of Public Works transportation planning, second from left, explains proposed changes in the update on Transportation Impact Fees (TIF) to Ramona Community Plannig Group members, residents and developers. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

While the dozen of people who attended the county’s meeting on transportation impact fees (TIF) on March 22 in Ramona learned that the fees are proposed to be significantly reduced, they were surprised to find out where the road fees could be spent once the new plan is adopted.

“Stunned,” is what one person said after hearing that TIF money in Ramona is proposed to only be used for improving the “curvy” portion of Highland Valley Road some time in the future, and for a section of state Route 67.

Nick Ortiz, with transportation planning at San Diego County’s Department of Public Works, along with other DPW staff and consultants, came to the Ramona Library to present the update on TIF program options for the East TIF region.

The three options that give varying percentages of credit for road improvements with corresponding fees, all lower than current fees, will be presented to the county board of supervisors on May 9, said Ortiz.

TIF, adopted by the county in 2005, is intended to fund identified transportation facilities, or portions thereof, that are needed to mitigate cumulative traffic impacts of future development, according to information provided by Ortiz.

“It had been the county’s plan to update TIF after the General Plan Update adoption,” said Ortiz.

A traffic analysis based on growth projections in the General Plan Update contributed to determining areas eligible for TIF, he said.

“It could be 20, 50 years down the line,” said Ortiz as to when the money would be spent. “The county is only going to spend money on a road improvement that is absolutely needed.”

The proposed decrease in TIF rates is due to the reduction in buildout densities in the General Plan Update, which subsequently changed the “mobility element,” according to DPW staff.

“There were several roads that were downgraded,” Ortiz said, noting improvements for Keyes and Dye Roads were downgraded. Other roads were deleted from the 2005 Ramona TIF facilities map including SA603, which would have connected state route 78 to Rangeland Road, and the Montecito Road extension.

Ortiz said that with less road improvements, less TIF money is needed.

The previous General Plan showed the mobility element for the East TIF region costing nearly $7 billion with $912 million coming from TIF. The General Plan Update, adopted in August 2011, lists the mobility element for the East region costing $2.4 billion with $535 million contributed from TIF rates.

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The green lines on this map show the proposed TIF eligibility areas of Highland Valley Road and state Route 67. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

Ortiz handed out a sheet of draft TIF Update sample fee rates that showed single family dwelling TIF rates dropping from $8,984 to possibly $5,175 or $3,994, depending on the option the county supervisors adopt. Those rates include the $2,123 Regional Transportation Capital Improvement Program requirement.

For general commercial the current $17.70 per square foot could decrease to $5.32 or $3.26 per square foot.

“There is a substantial reduction in fee rates,” said Ortiz.

Some of those at the meeting asked how much Ramona has in TIF money.

Since 2005, Ramona has accrued $1.8 million in TIF and currently has nearly $1.4 million in its local pot, he said.

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