Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Supervisors add regional fire authority to mitigation fee program

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has added the areacovered by the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority to the county’s Fire Mitigation Fee Program.

The supervisors’ 5-0 vote June 23 adds the zone of County Service Area No. 135 to the Fire Mitigation Fee Program, which assesses developers to fund the cost of fire department facilities serving the new development. The vote also adopted a capital facilities and equipment plan for CSA No. 135, although that adoption was to comply with the provisions of the ordinance and no expenditures are planned for Fiscal Year 2010-11. Because the funding is used for capital improvements, it is not required to be spent in a particular fiscal year.

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 independent fire protection districts and 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 which will serve new developments.

Volunteer fire departments which are not legal special districts do not participate in the Fire Mitigation Fee Program. However, in 2008 the county and the Local Agency Formation Commission approved a reorganization plan for fire departments in unincorporated San Diego County. The initial phase incorporated the territory served by volunteer agencies but not by a legal district into the fire authority, although volunteer fire departments retained their autonomy. In order to streamline the formation of the fire authority, it was created as a zone of CSA No. 135, which is the county’s special district covering regional communications, and LAFCO authorized latent powers for fire protection and emergency medical services within that zone.

The Board of Supervisors sets the fire mitigation fee rates annually while a 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 County Fire Mitigation Fee Ordinance allows fee ceilings to be increased or decreased in proportion to changes in the Cost of Construction Index, and 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.

The county supervisors approved the 2010-11 rates for the other legal agencies on March 24 but did not increase the fees from the 2009-10 rates. The rates for CSA No. 135 are the same as those adopted for other agencies. The fee for non-agricultural construction is 46 cents per square foot, the cost of agricultural buildings is 12 cents per square foot, 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.

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