The brilliant French economist Frederic Bastiat warned: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Accordingly, after California voters passed Prop. 13 to limit the annual huge increases in property taxes, governments started imposing fees for virtually every service rendered, including new development and construction. All the while, government salaries and pensions grew at alarming rates.
Currently, the cost of salaries, benefits and pensions of government workers absorbs as much as 60-90% of revenues of local governments. That means public servants are spending most tax monies on themselves! The end result? The price of nearly everything, including new construction and development, is inflated by millions of dollars as these fees are passed down to consumers.
Should we condone tacking on charges to new development because our government fell behind in expanding roadway capacity, developing new parks, bike paths and other like amenities? hould a community demand that developers cumulatively, or in some cases, singularly, pay millions of dollars to mitigate both existing and future deficits in a community?
Frederic Bastiat asked, “How is legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”
That, my friends, is your introduction to AB 1600 fees, a state bill passed many years ago that allows local governments to charge fees to new developers to mitigate the impacts of new (and, in all actuality, existing!) development on a community’s resources and assets.
The traffic fees (not to mention park fees, school fees, etc.) charged by Santa Barbara County under this program are nothing less than obscene.
The two main communities subject to the highest level of plunder are Goleta (technically “Noleta”) and Orcutt. The fees for South County are typically orders of magnitude higher than those charged in Orcutt, but not always.
Getting to the heart of why these fees should be considered plunder, do realize that when somebody wants to open a childcare center, they themselves may in fact have no children. Hence, building a childcare center does not add children to a community. Nevertheless, the traffic fee for a new childcare center is $767 per child in Noleta and $3,424 per child in Orcutt.
The fee per pump to construct a new gas station in Orcutt is $30,468. In Noleta, the fee is $118,822 per pump.
The cost for a 24-hour convenience store in Orcutt? $99,547 per 1,000 square feet. In Noleta, the fee is $429,205 per 1,000 square feet. The fee for a bank with a drive-thru in Orcutt is $51,997 per 1,000 square feet. In Noleta, the fee is $698,381 per 1,000 square feet.
Hence, consumers pay redundant traffic fees as each trip they take is charged against them so to speak, by fees that are assessed to new development as it pertains to the place they work, where they live, where they shop, where they buy gas, their kids day care center, the park they frequent, etc., etc.
These fees are, of course, so exorbitant, the county is robbing us of amenities and services while it robs itself of new property tax and sales tax revenues that would otherwise accrue from new development.
Having checked the fees in other communities on the Central Coast, it is safe to say the county of Santa Barbara is the greediest government to be found.
Andy Caldwell is the COLAB executive director and host of “The Andy Caldwell Show,” airing 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays on KZSB AM 1290, the News-Press radio station.