City, County fail to find common ground
Debate before council at times heated
The city and county met Tuesday night during the city council meeting, but no substantive progress was made.
Fifth District Supervisor Mike Ennis and County Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau took questions from the council regarding answered questions regarding the Memorandum of Understanding between the County and the Council of Cities over the county’s general plan update that has been so continuous for more than five years.
At the end of at times was a heated debate, the council decided that more discussion was needed before approving the MOU. A motion to reject the MOU also failed.
Rousseau said the county would enforce development standards at the city level in infrastructure, but this would have a high fiscal impact on the county. Council member Brian Ward still found a cause for concern in terms of the shared tax revenues which would be enacted decades later, as laid out in the MOU, which would be in the form of 8% of Porterville’s sales tax and transit occupancy tax.
“I am looking for the statistical calculation based on need. Why should I subtract from the services I am providing to Porterville residents for the county?” Ward asked.
Rousseau explained that along with changes in development standards, the country provides services that benefit the cities, many out of facilities that are decades old. He added that in Porterville alone, two county projects will be bringing jobs to the city, Rousseau said, naming the new courthouse and the jail. The county will continue to need funds to maintain these facilities, and to fix others, and feels the percentage of diverted tax income will help keep these facilities running.
“It’s hard to calculate the impact those changes will have 20 years down the road. So we came up with these ball park numbers,” Rousseau said.
Council member Greg Shelton continued to dive into the question of facilities maintenance and funding, finally concluding from what Rousseau answered that the county was taking this step because of funding short-falls from the state, which the county was trying to recover from the incorporated cities.
Robert Keenan, from the Home Builders Association of Tulare County, questioned the legality of the proposed “reciprocal facilities impact fees”.
Mayor Virginia Gurrola asked Porterville City Attorney Julia Lew if this was true. Lew said the language of the MOU was “loosy-goosey” and that not only was the proposed reciprocal development impact fee setup potentially illegal, but the lack of concrete terms in the rest of the MOU, except in areas discussing tax revenues, concerned her. Her opinion was that the city should not agree to the MOU because the language was too vague.
The proposed MOU is closely based on one that was entered into independently by the City of Dinuba and the county. The proposal makes stipulations, along with tax revenue sharing and new impact fees, which have the intent of allowing cities and the county to “work together to develop mutually beneficial and coordinated fiscal and land use planning practices.”
It sets up procedures between the county and the cities defining urban areas and urban development areas and would put an end to the ability of the cities legally challenge the county’s General Plan. Rousseau pointed out that the cities and the county have already spent too much on legal challenges, such as the 1,427 page document submitted to the county by the Council of Cities.
The county was taking the MOU to Porterville and the other cities for approval. If given, the Board of Supervisors would no longer file legal challenges against city projects. If rejected, the cities would be in effect deciding to maintain the status quo.
The General Plan has been an ongoing ordeal between the county and cities since before 2009, when negotiations began. In January of 2010, the Council of Cities walked away from negotiations, but returned to the table in July of 2010, under the stipulation that the MOU that was to be discussed was the Dec. 2, 2009 version. The county has been working since receiving the letter from the City of Councils on May 27, 2010 to answer the issues which were raised in the document.