Homebuilder says govt. fees raise price of new home as much as $50K

Builder and consumer advocates want overhaul

SAN DIEGO - A new home in San Diego County could cost you an extra $50,000 because of environmental and permitting fees, according to a homebuilder who contacted Team 10.

The fees cost consumers tens of thousands of dollars, delay projects and keep people from work, said Greg Brown, owner of New West Investment Groups. Brown wants to build 14 homes on his five-acre property in Lakeside.

"All costs are passed on. So these costs are being passed on to the purchaser," said Brown.

Consumer advocate Meredith Munger told Team 10 environmental and permitting fees are to blame.

"It's important for San Diego County homeowners and potential homeowners to know that they are paying $85,000 just in regulatory fees," said Munger.

Brown said he has to pay $150,000 in environmental fees to use his own property as part of the Multiple Species Conservation Plan.

Those fees are passed on to the consumer for about $25,000.

"What it says is that any sage and other protected wildlife even in highly developed areas like this have to be protected," said Munger.

Brown said there are several coastal sage bushes on his property.

The plan states for every one acre of the plant on Brown's property, he has to buy two more acres to be set aside on a preserve somewhere else.

Brown also has to pay a trust to take care of those indefinitely.

"Just so that we have the right to develop our own property," said Brown.

The homebuilder said water, sewer connection and traffic impact fees will tack on another $35,000 -- a cost he said gets passed straight to the consumer.

"On top of that, what we are seeing are projects that are taking up to six years to approve. That means construction workers can't get on the job," said Munger.

Brown and Munger called for an overhaul of the way property is developed.

"The way I look at it, the excessive regulations, the excessive amount of time to get a building permit is just keeping people from working. I think it's wrong," said Brown.

Team 10 reached out to county building officials about the fees.

A county spokesman said the California Environmental Quality Act outlines what environmental issues need to be studied and what kind of mitigation needs to take place for discretionary projects. Environmental studies and mitigation vary from project to project for all kinds of reasons.

To read more about the Multiple Species Conservation Plan, click here http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/pds/mscp/index.html

A county spokesperson also answered Team 10's question about $35,000 added to Brown's costs for water, sewer connection and traffic impact fees.

In an email to Team 10, Conaughton wrote, "There are a number of impact fees that builders have to pay to cover the cost -- literally -- of the impact their development will create, from more traffic, to more children in schools, to more water supplied, etc. Most of these types of development fees -- water, school, sewer, etc. -- are required by other agencies, not the County."

Team 10 also asked Conaughton about Brown's and Munger's desire to overhaul the permitting process in the county.

"We are constantly looking for ways to improve our permitting process," Conaughton wrote, "from creating a one-stop shop at the County Operations Center to providing online permitting opportunities for some of our permits."

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