Hesperia reinstates water connection fee for future homes (December 21, 2018)

HESPERIA — The City Council voted 4-1 to reinstate the adopted water connection facilities fee that was reduced nearly five years ago when it lowered overall development impact fees in an effort to spur development.

Reinstatement of the fee will begin on Jan. 15 and will increase water connections by $940 per new single-family homes for future residents, said Mayor Larry Bird during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Assistant City Manager Michael Blay said the roughly 30 homes in the planning process would not be affected.

Bird said the reduction has brought on some good number of permits over the last three years. That jives also with a growing economy.

Development impact fees are collected from developers at the time a building permit is issued. The fees help fund the cost of infrastructure required to provide services to new development, such as sewer, water, roads and other infrastructure.

Councilman Jeremiah Brosowske cast the lone dissenting vote, telling the Daily Press that building industry leaders he spoke with had asked for more time to work with the city on a solution.

Reinstatement of the adopted fee, which was first instituted in 2007 and lowered temporarily in April 2013, will result in a total connection fee of $3,513 per new home.

The City Council first extended the reduction program in September of 2016 and made several extensions over the years, with the last one made in March 2017.

The DIF reduction was concluded upon completion of the DIF Nexus Study, which included new DIFs adopted by the council in May of this year.

The study found that future development costs and the current revived economy were two reasons to reinstitute the DIFs.

The Nexus Study did not address the water facilities fee for new water connections. Consequently, staff recommended that the council end the DIF Reduction Program as it relates to the water fee and restore the adopted fee of $3,513 per connection.

The Hesperia Water District’s 701 Fund balance, categorized for water connection fees, is roughly $12.8 million in debt, with about 3,662 new homes having to be built with the restored connection fee to break even.

The $12 million deficit resulted from the water district building infrastructure including pipeline, reservoirs and wells for future growth, city spokeswoman Rachel Molina told the Daily Press.

Leaving the water rate at its current level would mean 13,686 homes would need to be built in order to break even. That number of homes does not include the Tapestry project in southeast Hesperia.

Hesperia Director of Finance Casey Brooksher said funds from homes needed to be built are simply a break-even number and do not take into consideration future expansion.

City Manager Nils Bentsen said a new water study will incorporate updated numbers from reclaimed water that will be used by the city when the Victor Valley Subregional Water Reclamation plant goes online. The reclaimed water will be used mainly for irrigation.

Bentsen added that new infrastructure would have to be built to accommodate 13,000 plus homes, which would inflate the $12 million figure.

A staff report revealed a water connection facilities fee of $8,265 for new homes in Adelanto, $3,778 for homes in Victorville and $9,849 in San Bernardino County Zone J. These fee amounts do not include fees for supplemental water and meter installation.

Source: Rene Ray De La Cruz, Daily Press