County subdivision street assessments are coming

By C.J. Barbre

Riverwalk at River Island. Just the name sounds rather grand. The developers expected the Tulare County Board of Supervisors to give them a go ahead at their July 19 meeting but it was not to be.

"We began this project over three years ago," developer Daryl Nicholson said. "These are first-class, estate-sized lots. The residential subdivision will be an asset to the entire southern Tulare County with a two-acre lake and walking paths. We believe it is the best single piece of property in southern Tulare County."

As the clincher, Nicholson said his own daughter and son-in-law would be moving in. "We just ask that you approve it without condition 32."

32. Prior to recording the final tract map, an assessment district as allowed by law for the maintenance of the public streets and roadways within the boundary of the subdivision shall be formed. The subdivider shall file with the Tulare County Resource Management Agency (RMA) an application and pay any applicable fees for the formation of said assessment district, in the manner and form directed by RMA at least 120 days prior to the anticipated date of recording the final tract map.

RMA Director Henry Hash didn't mince words. "As we are adding miles to the road system with reduced funding and higher cost of materials, we will be adopting road assessment districts," he said.

Nicholson continued on about minimal county services; an open community - not gated like surrounding communities; one of the most unique and innovative septic systems in California . . .

"The county currently receives 10 cents of every dollar of property tax. It spends $45 million on the Sheriff's Department. We take in $30 million in property tax. If we don't require an assessment for roads, there is no money for maintenance," District 4 Supervisor Steve Worthley said.

In the end Nicholson said it was the additional four months' delay that they most objected to. The supervisors determined to carry the discussion over to the next meeting on July 26.

At this meeting Britt Fussel, the county's assistant director of engineering explained that, "As a result of Prop 13, maintenance was prioritized to the most heavily traveled roadways. Subdivisions were neglected except for potholes. It detracts from curb appeal and property values." He said in 1993 they adopted a similar resolution for drainage systems.

Fussel said expenditures for roadway maintenance tend to be "lumpy." He said with assessment districts, they would have the funding to apply a rejuvenating agent after five years; a chip seal would be applied in year 15; and an asphalt concrete overlay would be applied in year 30. Through the assessment district process, the county would be able to identify the cost of these maintenance efforts, convert them to an annual cost that would raise the required funding, collect this annual assessment on the property tax roll and place it in a separate account for each assessment district, and then expend the funds for maintenance at the appropriate time.

For example, he said, an 18-lot subdivision with 6,000-square-foot lots would have an annual assessment of $91.02 per lot on the 30-year plan. With a 32-lot subdivision with 100,000-square-foot lots, the assessment would be $356 per lot per year.

Fussel said they could adopt the resolution today, but it would only be applicable for subdivision that are not deemed complete. "If we hold a public hearing, it could be applicable to projects in the pipeline." He suggested they schedule a public hearing for Aug. 16, the three weeks required notice, then act.

Worthley asked if this was only applicable to subdivisions. Fussel said it could apply to any new street in the county.

RMA staff recommended no modification of rule 32 for the River Island Riverwalk subdivision.

The other partner in the development, Pete Hauk, said he was director of maintenance for Porterville College for several decades. "I understand and agree," he said.

District 1 Supervisor Allen Ishida said, "Being from Strathmore where roads are almost non-existent and with what's happening in the Paige/Moore tract in Lindsay, a county island, I believe this is a move we need to take so we don't have dilapidated roads."

"It's a sad fact we can't maintain the roads now," board chairman and District 2 Supervisor Connie Conway agreed.

"There's more of a demand to develop subdivisions in unincorporated areas," Worthley noted. "This is very timely."

The county subdivision road assessment will be open to discussion at the Aug. 16 board of supervisors meeting in the administration building at 200 W. Burrel Ave. in Visalia.

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