Developer prevails in fee battle for new Pleasant View subdivision

Sep 1 2013 - 11:53pm

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PLEASANT VIEW -- A developer won a fight against higher fees being pushed by city officials.

The city council voted 3-2 to stick with the fees outlined in the original November 2011 agreement with Roy Harris for Harris Hills subdivision.

The subdivision has yet to be developed, and Harris was in a recent council meeting asking for a preliminary plat extension on the subdivion. He balked at the idea of paying additional fees when Assistant City Administrator Valerie Claussen suggested it.

"Subdivision fees have increased since 2011," said Claussen. She said the difference would come to about $3,600 and said separate fees for separate services is not an uncommon practice.

The subdivision consists of 38 lots that are less than a half-acre each. Claussen said the development agreement could be amended, and the phasing of the development and time frame could be tied down later.

"We can uphold the fees assessed with the 2013 application," Claussen said.

Councilman Toby Mileski said originally the plans were for 39 lots and asked why the preliminary approval should be redone for downsizing. He said the subdivision had already received preliminary approval and should not be subject to additional fees. Mileski said that in the original development agreement the city did agree to extend.

"Nowhere did it say they would have to pay more," said Mileski. "They were smart, they paid all their fees up front. We gave them the agreement. I think we need to honor that agreement and the fees they paid at that time."

Councilman Jerold Burns asked if there was a statute of limitations on the original agreement, and Mayor Doug Clifford said there was not.

City Administrator Melinda Brimhall said Harris does still owe $1,600 to the city and said Bruce Talbot, the community development director at the time, had sent Harris a bill for that in 2012, but it had not been paid or disputed.

"I've operated in good faith with the city on this, and Bruce Talbot," Harris said. "Obviously I was led to believe there was no cutoff, no time frame. I applied for preliminary approval and did not have to worry about the limitation on time. I needed to watch the housing market come back and the economy to come back. Bruce and I had discussed this all along."

Harris said he had paid his fees, and he didn't think he was being treated right by the city. He said the only changes he had made involved the phasing of the subdivision, not any major changes like roads.

Harris also said he received the additional bill but does not want to pay it unless he knows what it is for, and said he was billed for work by the city engineer four months after he already received approval.

He said he would just pay the bill, but he felt the city had turned the tables on him.

Another monkey wrench in the project is a second owner, Lou Campbell, who cannot speak for himself at this time, according to Carson Jones, who was representing the Harris Hills Subdivision Development.

Jones said the development has a stopping point, and they can just develop the portion belonging to Harris for now, while research is done on whether Campbell has a power of attorney to speak for him.

"We have a preliminary approval and a development agreement," Jones said. "We just can't get anywhere with it. We are here to get it resolved. We are citizens of this city.We want what is best for this city. Grant us this approval and let us move forward."

"Since we did the development agreement, I think we need to live with it," Mileski said.

He said the fees should be adequate that were paid at the time of the application, minus the $1,600.

Mileski moved that the city stick with the development fees paid as part of the original application and that phasing of the project be spelled out with the final plat approval.

The motion passed, and Harris will not have to pay the additional fees. The vote was 3-2, with Councilmen Jerold Burns and Scott Boehme voting against approval.

Clifford said the council needs to step back and better define development agreements.

"Let's clean this thing up a bit," Clifford said. "This thing has more fur on it than anything we have ever seen."

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