Council OKs refund of road-impact fees


By a 4-1 vote, the Atherton City Council agreed Aug. 18 to refund about $427,000 in road-impact fees to builders who engaged in major home construction or remodels between Aug. 17, 2007, and Sept. 18, 2009.

During that time, the town had an elevated road-impact fee -- increased by 40 percent by the council in an August 2007 vote. The newly approved refund will be limited to the additional money paid by builders as a result of that fee hike.

The fee was charged to developers to compensate the town for damage done to roads by construction vehicles.

Councilman Jim Dobbie was the sole opponent of the refund. He has contended that the road damage by heavy trucks justified the fees, and that the fees are not a disincentive to construction.

Many cities charge the fee to developers and contractors, but a type of road-impact fee was recently and successfully challenged in court.

Go to this link and turn to Page 130 for an overview of the refunding procedure.

In July, Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis responded to Mr. Dobbie's opposition to refunds with a single word: "Lawsuits." That has happened.

The Pacific Peninsula Group, a developer that frequently builds in Atherton, filed suit in San Mateo County Superior Court on Aug. 16 demanding refunds.

On Aug. 18, the council rejected Pacific Peninsula's claim for a road-impact fee refund of $298,145.

In the 4-0 vote, Councilman Charles Marsala recused himself. Asked why, Mr. Marsala said that he is not obligated to explain. "I just felt using my discretion at this point was a prudent thing to do."

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike McPherson
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm

I spoke at three straight City Council meetings this spring, requesting that the Council rescind its decision to refund $1.6 million of these fees, based upon a criteria which seemed much too broad. I'm gratified that was done, and that this compromise plan, devised by a small working group which included Councilmember Jerry Carlsen, Finance committee member Jeff Wise, town Staff, and me, was approved. I thank the Council for revisiting and revising this decision, as I believe it to be equitable and in the best interests of the residents of the town.

Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm

and Thankyou for that Mr. McPherson
But what conflict of interest did Charles Marsala have with P.P.G. or the Ackleys that caused him and or the city attorney to instruct, that Charles opt to recuse himself from voting on this matter?
Also why did Ms Lewis not recuse herself from voting on refunds to her own contractor?
It would be nice to save/protect the town some integrity as well as the money if possible.

Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Dear Mike

Sorry to rain on your parade.

The Council took action to refund road impact fees. By doing so it made an admission that it acted illegally by approving the increase back in 2006.

The compromise plan accomplishes nothing more than subjecting the town to further litigation. While Ms Furth stands to benefit in the form of a fat year end bonus from her new employer, the Town stands to lose.

[Portion removed; personal attack.]

I did not agree with the town's original decision. Howecer this compromise plan is even more foolish.

Like this comment
Posted by Atherton taxpayer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm

JJ-it's hard to admit that your idea for raising revenue was I fact the source of lawsuits.

Like this comment
Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Whether you are for the road impact fee refund or not, giving Jerry Carlson any credit for it, as Mike McPherson did, is wrong. Jerry Carlson voted to give all the money back just a few months ago. The credit goes to Kathy McKeithen and Jim Dobbie for refusing to take the money out of the treasury. Carlson even voted to overturn the 4/5 council requirement for taking money out of the treasury to override their opposition. Only after public outcry started about the refund, did the chameleon Jerry Carlson change his position. When I confronted with him this at the meeting two months ago, he said he reevaluated his position after learning about Atherton's dire financial situation. The fact is, if he only learned about that a few months ago, that's a really big problem. In summary, Kathy McKeithen and Jim Dobbie are the reason that the road impact fee refund was limited. Now, I am waiting for Jim Dobbie to respond to campaign finance reform and am very disappointed he won't. But, that doesn't change the fact that he was one of the two prime movers behind this (and the only council member to steadfastly oppose any refund), NOT Jerry Carlson.

Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Sorry Atherton Taxpayer

You are wrong again. The road impact fee was adopted in 2000. Cliff Temps recommended it and the Council approved a year before I was hired.

One other thing you should be aware of. It was Marsala that whispered in a certain builder of spec homes ear that caused the current lawsuit.

If you want to know which developer that might be, here is a hint. Marsala's most recent recusal for "personal reasons".

Like this comment
Posted by Running in Place oncore
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Swing voter Jerry Carlson's balancing act and waivering "neutrality" are the reason for many or even most, of the missed opportunities for correction Atherton has had and lost over the last few years--especially his year as mayor--right there at the helm during the hiring of a two new city managers, new assistant, new clerk, new city attorney, new Building inspector, two Police name it and either poor selections were made or poor direction was provided. A lot of time and money but Zero progress was made.

Now it's looking like another blank slate will be presenting itself shortly--Gruber and Wilkerson are toast, Wassman needs t be replaced, NEW legal council is a must......

Jerry--I may or or may not vote for you this fall, depending on what can be determined about the newer and less known candidates running, but please, if you are voted onto the council again, would you please just do what ever McKeithen wants instead of trying to figure any thing out for your self.
I do thank Jerry for his efforts on High Speed Rail -its the one thing I believe he has been clear about and good at sticking with. This at least has been a worthwhile effort and to his credit. But he should leave the rest of the heavy lifting to others.

Like this comment
Posted by Oz
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

If Jerry Carlson only had a heart, if he only had a brain, if he only had courage......

Like this comment
Posted by Mike McPherson
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 29, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Mr. Johns statements are, in my opinion, incorrect. The Council's action does not make "an admission that it acted illegally". A changed position is not an admission of illegality. Further, to say that the compromise plan only invites further litigation ignores the likelihood of litigation that led the Council to refund the fees in the first place. Unfortunately, no matter what action was taken, because of the judicial decision in Kern County, litigation on this subject was probable.
I generally don't like debating these issues in a forum such as this, so if anybody would like to send me an email for further discussion, my address is in the town roster.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Peek inside the fine-dining Selby's, opening in Redwood City this summer
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 3,226 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 46 comments | 2,215 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 996 views

Premarital and Couples: "You're Not Listening to Me!" may mean "I don't feel heard."
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 771 views

Migraines and motherhood
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 480 views


The Almanac Readers' Choice ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "The Almanac Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 17th issue of The Almanac.