“Hollister is open for business” was the mantra at the Sept.18 city council meeting, as the council approved a resolution to reallocate the costs of traffic impact fees imposed on new developments. Council members Jim Gillio and Mickie Luna were eager to get the word out that businesses would benefit from the change. Each championed the slogan, which was in response to Richard Goozh, chief financial officer of Teknova, who said the city was not open for business at an August meeting, where the council could not come to a decision on growth management.
Mary Paxton, program manager of the Development Services Department, told the council that the current traffic impact fees were derived from the San Benito County Council of Governments (COG) 2016 Regional Transportation Impact Fee Nexus Study. The study listed 15 projects, as well as intersection and bicycle lane improvements. The amendment would cover those projects and reallocate the costs each development would pay. “There will be a higher proportion of fees allocated to residential development because they contribute to peak-hour trips to commuter corridors, such as Highways 156 and 25, and Union Road. They would also contribute trips to residential surface streets, such as Westside Blvd.,” she said.
Paxton reminded the council that it had approved a resolution last November for a professional services contract to re-evaluate traffic impact fees, which was part of an incentive package to keep Teknova in Hollister.
Before council members spoke, the public was asked if they had any comments. Bob Tiffany, owner of Tiffany Motors and president of the San Benito County Business Council, said the amendment made a lot of sense because it would place a greater financial burden on residential growth, which he said creates the greatest impact on the roads.
“It reduces the fees on commercial and industrial growth, whether it be through expansion of an existing business like we saw with Teknova or through the attraction of a new business to the city,” he said. “We need more good paying jobs in the community and anything we can do to encourage companies to expand or to come here is a very good thing for Hollister.”
Tiffany commented that job growth not only helps the overall economy, but allows more people to live and work in Hollister, reducing the number of commuters, and the impact they have on the roads. He said the Business Council commended the City Council and staff for actively trying to support job growth through the resolution.
Marty Richman commented that he wanted to educate the public by reminding them, “…impact fees are not get-ahead fees; they are get-even fees.” He explained that impact fees only give communities the maximum, legal charge for impacts, whether they be for residential or commercial developments.
“To get ahead we cannot use just impact fees,” he said. “We have to have development agreements. The 14 impact fee projects that are with COG right now would take 13,000 homes just to fund the impact fee portion. We’re not getting 13,000 homes between now and 2035, therefore, that means we can’t do those projects unless we find another way to fund the road system.”
Richman agreed with Tiffany, saying that reduction of impacts on businesses reduces traffic because more people will work and shop locally. He went on to reason that as miserable as the commute on Highway 25 is, it’s only miserable four hours a day during the peak driving hours.
“If we want to improve our access to 156 through Union Road and improve the access to 25 we have got to do something about the streets within the purview of the county and the city,” he said. “The only way we can reasonably do that is to get full of permission to develop. That means talk to the developer and say ‘here’s what we need, what do you offer?’ Doing a development agreement, with trained personnel, means you have the opportunity to get ahead and not just get even.”
Councilman Gillio said it’s important to get the word out that Hollister is open for business. “We’re actively trying to encourage businesses to come here and create high paying jobs, as well as take traffic off our roadways,” he said.
Councilman Karson Klauer said his heart breaks a little bit because there is nothing the council can do about the lack of multi-family homes being built that harms middle- and lower-income earners. Even so, he said the amendment was a big step forward.
“When you look at them it’s a per-thousand square feet amounts and it doesn’t look like a whole lot, but when you realize how big, some of these proposed buildings are (70,000 square feet for some cannabis manufacturing facilities), it should change some people’s minds,” he said.
Klauer asked Paxton if there were a plan or process in place to reach out to commercial developers who may have come to Hollister and found it too expensive in the past and went elsewhere. “It’s one thing to change it, but if nobody knows about it then it won’t make any difference. We need to come up with something to get back out there and get ahold of these people who showed an interest at some point,” he said.
“We can work on that,” Paxton told him. “When we’ve been talking to potential businesses we told them we were working on this.”
Councilwoman Luna said the council needed to move now because the impact fees were not helping and it was time to let people know the city was open for business.