Board passes building fees in Copper

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

The vote by Calaveras County supervisors Monday night to charge $1,271 for each new home built in the Copperopolis area was close.

With supervisors Tom Tryon and Paul Stein in favor of the Copperopolis "Benefit Basin" fees and supervisors Terri Bailey and Lucy Thein opposing, Chairwoman Merita Callaway cast her vote to implement the fees.

Fee revenue will pay for future road improvements to accommodate population growth including widening and straightening Reed's Turnpike and sections of O'Byrnes Ferry Road, which runs through downtown Copperopolis and extends from Highway 4 to Highway 108.

However, Callaway, Bailey and Thein each expressed concern about the new fees since the county is working to implement road impact mitigation (RIM) fees, which would pay for road construction anywhere in the county.

"If we have the benefit basin and the RIM fees, we can't be doubling up," Callaway said shortly before announcing her vote.

A road impact mitigation fee could be used to fix or build roads anywhere in the county. A basin fee can only be used to pay for construction within that basin.

About 20 county residents were in the audience Monday, most from Copperopolis. Many expressed concern that both the RIM and basin fees would deter future development in the Copperopolis area.

"If we'd had those monies in 15 years ago ... we would have the money in there to support roads and development," Burson resident Philip Cain told board members. "But that hasn't happened."

Bob Kawasaki, county public works director, said it took three months of staff time to calculate the basin fees because the width of the future alignment of Reed's Turnpike was uncertain.

The Public Works Department originally planned to widen the windy, country road to 108 feet, which many area residents said was too wide for the rural area.

Earlier in November, supervisors ruled that Reed's Turnpike would be widened to just 74 feet.

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