The Los Banos City Council has sent a proposal for a residential development at Pioneer and Mercey Springs roads to the Planning Commission for further review, the latest step in a struggle to impose a development fee that would help pay for a fire station on the east side of the city.
Both city leaders and Stonefield Communities Inc., a business of local developer Greg Hostetler, support having a fire station opened east of the proposed development. But they also want assurances that, so far, each side hasn’t been willing to give.
At the Nov. 16 City Council meeting, Stonefield representative Jeff Roberts urged council members to accept an agreement that would require the developer to fund a $30,000 study that would be the first step in pursuing a new fire station.
The city, however, wants a pre-annexation agreement that would “have more teeth” in securing a fire station, Mayor Mike Villalta said at the meeting.
That type of agreement would include a community amenity fee assessed at $5,000 per home.
That’s a tough proposition for Hostetler, who told the Enterprise on Monday that he wants more accountability for how the collected fee would be spent, including assurances that homeowners would directly benefit from use of the money.
“It’s about user-pay,” Hostetler said.
City officials say the fee would be used to pay for a fire station, which would benefit the subdivision’s residents as well as others on the east side of the city.
According to city code, the community amenity fee would be “used for financing or constructing community facilities as determined by the City Council,” as well as public improvements, development of industrial or regional retail land, or contribution toward the city’s non-market-rate housing needs.
Hostetler said he questions whether future elected City Council members will uphold the current body’s promises.
“The (use of the) fee is at the discretion of City Council, but which one?” Hostetler asked.
At the meeting, Roberts also offered that Hostetler could allow land he owns south of Home Depot to be annexed into the city to be earmarked for a fire station. That location is about a mile away from the proposed development.
But city officials still favored the community amenity fee, which would also help fund other projects in the city.
The City Council also wanted more assurance that the fire station would be part of the project, even if ownership of the land changes hands.
“We’ve got to have that fire station,” Villalta said at the meeting. “And I cannot, cannot, short-change this city at this time where this thing might disappear.”
The project will be heard for a second round at a future Planning Commission meeting, senior planner Stacy Souza Elms said. She and Hostetler said they were on the same page on the development.
“I think it’s on the right track,” Hostetler said. “We’re on the right track.”
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562