(April 10, 2007) -- With nearly no discussion, the LB City Council voted 7-0 (DeLong absent, 6th dist. vacant) on April 10 to let developers of now pending projects -- including over 4,400 residential units -- "in the pipeline" (some approvals but not building permits) avoid paying fees that a professionally prepared study found fairly represent their share of costs for new police and fire infrastructure attributable to their impacts.
LBReport.com has estimated that the amount of public revenue that will be lost by the decision will exceed $4 million.
Councilwoman Rae Gabelich was the only elected official to speak. We post her comments below.
Councilwoman Gabelich: I just want to make a comment because I made a lot of passionate comments about this last week and I was trying to find a way to find a compromise so that everyone could take a deep breath and agree on some common ground.
But what I discovered while trying to put this together that our process was flawed. Appropriate notice was not given to any of the programs that were in the works and we lost an opportunity, because of that, to provide greater balance of public safety services for our thousands of new residents.
Of that, I'm quite disturbed by that, but we move forward from this point. And so I appreciate everybody being patient with me last week. I still believe that this is a good program and everyone will benefit, and I'm just sorry that it wasn't in effect when we thought it was going to be.
And with that I vote yes.
Conspicuous by their absence were representatives of the LB Police Officers Ass'n and the LB Firefighters Ass'n...who on March 20 publicly urged the Council to enact the fees in an ordinance that would apply them to developers of pending and future projects.
Six months earlier, on September 12, 2006, the Council voted unanimously to direct preparation of an ordinance to collect Public Safety Impact Fees based on a study showing a legally-required nexus [connection] between the fees and the additional costs of infrastructure/equipment on taxpayers.
LBReport.com has learned that the City Hall-funded, professionally prepared study cost LB taxpayers over $50,000.
When the ordinance returned for Council enactment on March 20, 2007, applying the Public Safety Impact Fee to all developments was backed by the LB Police Officers Ass'n and the LB Firefighters Ass'ns and Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell and Rae Gabelich indicated they were both ready to approve the fee as proposed.
However Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal (who with Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal represents the downtown area where many of the proposed developments are located) objected to adopting the Public Safety Impact Fee as proposed, arguing City Hall's process hadn't included sufficient outreach to developers.
Four Councilmembers -- Suja Lowenthal, Gary DeLong, Gerrie Schipske and Val Lerch -- balked at adopting the fee as proposed and after a few failed motions, a motion carried 6-2 (Gabelich and O'Donnell dissenting) directing management to hold a public meeting at which the public and "stakeholders" (development interests) could be heard. At that meeting, development and business interests objected to various aspects of the fee...and sought changes including faster processing of projects backed by City Hall.
When the item returned to the Council on April 3, Mayor Bob Foster, Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal and Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal contended that applying the Public Safety Impact fee to "in the pipeline" pending developments would be unfair and inequitable to developers, calling it "retroactive."
The LB Area Chamber of Commerce testified against adopting the fee, urging it be sent back for further Committee proceedings. Downtown LB Associates also cited reasons not to adopt the fee as originally proposed.
Councilman O'Donnell then reversed his position of two weeks earlier (when he'd supported applying the Public Safety fee as proposed) and moved to exempt projects "in the pipeline."
Councilman O'Donnell's exemption for developers of pending projects was supported by Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal, Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal...and LB Mayor Bob Foster. In supporting that exemption, the Lowenthals and the Mayor variously said they supported public safety but backed the Public Safety Fee only on a "go forward" basis.
That left Councilwoman Rae Gabelich as the only LB Councilmember to support applying the Public Safety Impact Fee on all developers of pending projects. Councilwoman Gabelich cited what she called years of Council actions that left LB taxpayers with less than adequate police and fire staffing and infrastructure amd urged application of the Public Safety Fee in full.
Absent Council support, Councilwoman Gabelich went along with the "go forward" version of the fee on April 3...realizing the issue would return for a second vote on April 10.
On April 10, Councilemmbers had the opportunity to reverse themselves and apply the police/fire impact fee to developers with projects in the pipeline. With the sole exception of Councilwoman Gabelich, they said nothing in declining to do so.