The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to maintain the fire mitigation fee rates paid by developers to fund the cost of fire department facilities serving the new development.
The supervisors’ 5-0 vote March 24 maintained the fee for non-agricultural construction at 46 cents per square foot, which would equate to a fee of $920 for a 2,000 square foot structure. The supervisors also accepted the Fire Mitigation Fee Review Committee’s annual report and found that the 25 participating fire agencies were in conformance with the County Fire Mitigation Fee Ordinance for Fiscal Year 2008-09.
The county established the Fire Mitigation Fee Program in 1986 to provide funding for fire protection and emergency medical services in the unincorporated communities. Although local fire agencies lack the legal authority to impose mitigation fees on new development, the county collects a fee from building permit applicants on behalf of 19 independent fire protection districts and six County Service Areas with fire protection responsibility. The mitigation fees are distributed quarterly to agency accounts and must be used for capital projects or to purchase firefighting equipment or supplies that will serve new developments. Volunteer fire departments that are not legal special districts do not participate in the Fire Mitigation Fee Program.
The Fire Mitigation Fee Review Committee reviews the annual reports of the participating agencies to confirm that the improvements are necessary to serve new development. The committee members consist of two fire chiefs (currently Bill Metcalf of the North County Fire Protection District and Kevin O’Leary of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection), one elected director of a fire protection district (currently Larry Jackman of the San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District), two staff members from county’s Department of Planning and Land Use (currently County Service Area analyst Pattie Tan and fire services program coordinator Susan Quasarano), and one representative each from the Building Industry Association (currently Matt Adams), the San Diego County Farm Bureau (currently Scott Lenz of DeLuz), and the county’s Planning Commission (currently Adam Day).
The County Fire Mitigation Fee Ordinance allows fee ceilings to be increased or decreased in proportion to changes in the Cost of Construction Index. The ordinance also requires an evaluation of the base fee every five years based upon dividing the average cost in current dollars to construct a fully-equipped fire station within the county’s unincorporated area by the average square footage of structures served by that average fire station. That result becomes the new base fee and was last adjusted in 2006.
The cost of agricultural buildings remains at 12 cents per square foot, although the fee for agricultural buildings with fire sprinkler systems is two cents per square foot and the fee for poultry and greenhouse buildings is one cent per square foot.
The North County Fire Protection District received $148,249.46 of Fire Mitigation Fee Program revenue in Fiscal Year 2008-09. Because the funding is used for capital improvements, it is not required to be spent in a particular fiscal year, and Fiscal Year 2009-10 planned capital expenditures approved by the Fire Mitigation Fee Review Committee include $1,875,000 to replace NCFPD Station 5. The Vista Fire Protection District obtained $25,628.72 of mitigation fee revenue during Fiscal Year 2008-09 but does not plan to spend any of the money in Fiscal Year 2009-10.
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