Developers and property owners in Oro Valley soon will be paying dramatically higher fees for rezonings, plan reviews and other development services based on actions taken by the Town Council at its May 21 meeting.

Vice Mayor Werner Wolff characterized some of the higher fees as "outrageous," while Councilmember Dick Johnson raised concerns that some of the fees seemed "punitive." Despite these concerns, four of the five councilmembers voted in favor of the new fees. Wolff abstained, saying he didn't think there was enough justification for the increases.

For some services, fees would more than triple when they become effective in late June.

The cost for processing and reviewing plans for a 10-acre residential rezoning, for example, would soar from $500 to $3,900; for a 40-acre rezoning, the cost would zoom from $1,100 to $5,100.

Development review fees for a five-acre commercial site would climb from $1,375 to $3,620; home occupation permits for such things as Bed and Breakfast inns, massage businesses, music lessons for more than one person or television repair services, for which there is no charge now, would cost $380; and conditional-use permits for drive-through restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations would rise from a low of $100 to $300 to $1,000.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Bryant Nodine told the council the higher fees are based on the town's cost of providing services and a study recommending fees be set so that projected revenues don't exceed 32 percent of the projected budget allocated to development review. He also noted that fees for these services haven't been increased since 1994.

In a memo to the council, Nodine and Senior Planner Bayer Vella explained that in an attempt to make sure the town wasn't overcharging for the services, the new fee schedule was applied to development services for which money was collected in the 2001-2002 fiscal year.

The fees collected using the current fee schedule totaled $83,000, or 10 percent of the budget. The new fees will generate about $180,000 annually, or 23 percent of the budget, well under the 30 percent.

In response to some council concerns that the fees might be out of line in comparison with what other jurisdictions are charging, Councilmember Paula Abbott said Oro Valley has established a reputation for demanding higher quality development standards and having town staff put more time into planning reviews, thus warranting the higher costs. The town's lost money for the past nine years by not charging what it cost to provide services and it can't afford to continue to do that, she said, adding that perhaps other jurisdictions aren't as thorough in their development reviews and that's why their costs are often lower.

Acting on a suggestion from Johnson, the council directed staff to review the fees every two years so increases don't appear so exorbitant.

The town also is expecting to generate an additional $50,000 annually from new water line inspection fees in new developments, water line pressure and bacteria tests and security deposit fees for portable hydrant meters.

The council approved water line inspection fees ranging from $365 for the first 500 feet to $2,345 for up to a 5,000-foot water line. The move eliminates having engineers for the developer inspect and certify the water lines while town staff were conducting similar inspections. The overall cost to the developer will be lower, said Alan Forrest, Water Utility Director. The security deposit fees cover the cost of replacing lost or destroyed portable hydrant meters, he said.

Among other new rates, fees for nighttime use of soccer and softball fields at Canada del Oro Riverfront Park and James D. Kriegh Park will rise from $6 to $7 an hour; a new $2 an hour charge is being assessed for daytime use of these fields; a new $25 per day fee, plus utilities and staff time, will be assessed for use at CDO Riverfront Park's outdoor performance ramada; and lap and open swim time fees at the Kriegh Park pool will double to $2 for adults and to 50 cents for children 12 and under. The increases are expected to generate about $21,000 more in annual revenues.

The council continued its nearly two-year struggle to resolve residents' complaints of excessive traffic and speeding in their neighborhood of Copper Springs Trail and Moore Road.

In action that Wolff described as "taking longer than the declaration of war against Iraq," the council voted to rescind the installation of traffic control devices that would have limited northbound motorists on Copper Springs to right turns only at Moore and prevented westbound motorists on Moore from turning south on Copper Springs.

Instead, the council wound up voting 3-2, with Councilman Dick Johnson and Abbott opposed, to install striping along about a mile stretch on Copper Springs from Tangerine Road to Moore to slow traffic by narrowing the road to two 11-foot traffic lanes and a 5-foot bike lane on each side.

Residents told the council they don't think striping will have any effect on the volume of traffic in their area and without reducing volume, the effect on speed will be negligible to nil, they said.

In response to residents' requests, town staff, in accord with the council vote, will be examining alternatives including center islands and speed bumps, report on the costs involved in those alternatives and attempt to gain a consensus from residents on what alternative they prefer. No date has been set for that work to be presented to the council. Residents also inquired about making Copper Springs Trail a private road, but the town has indicated that won't be allowed.

At one point Abbott suggested a straw pole vote be taken of the audience regarding the need for striping bike lanes on Copper Springs Trail.

The suggestion was quickly dismissed by Loomis. "No, we don't do straw polls at council meetings," the mayor said.

Loomis said the eventual solution to the Copper Springs problem will be the four-lane extension of La Canada from Tangerine to Moore. The project is scheduled to go out to bid in January and be completed within a year from then, said Public Works Director Bill Jansen.

Related to improvements on La Canada, the council awarded a $9 million contract to Borderland Construction Co. for the widening of La Canada to four lanes from Lambert Lane to Calle Concordia. Initial estimates of the cost of the project were closer to $11 million.

Improvements will include a new bridge across the CDO Wash, east of the existing bridge, bus and bike lanes, a separated pedestrian path, an equestrian trail continuing to Ina Road and the installation of underground electric lines for which the town is paying about $260,000 as its share of the cost with Tucson Electric Power Co.

In other action, the council:

Approved a preliminary plat leading to Monterey Homes construction of 158 homes on 74.2 acres at the southwest corner of Tangerine.

Approved a rezoning for nearly 45,000 square feet of office uses and a restaurant on nearly eight acres at the east side of Oracle Road near Desert Sky Road. A single-family home and wedding chapel are now on the site and wedding services would be expanded to handle receptions.

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