Lake Elsinore City Council questions new TUMF fees

Although the Western Riverside County Council of Governments has reduced some of its Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fees this year some members of Lake Elsinore City Council remain dissatisfied with its expenditures.

The new TUMF fee schedule for the next three years was introduced to the council in their Aug. 22 regular council meeting.

The TUMF fees are used for necessary transportation projects like new freeway interchanges, bridges, highway and lane improvements to accommodate increasing populations and commercial and residential construction. This year the TUMF for retail commercial developments has been reduced from $10.49 per square foot to $7.50 per square foot.

But, single family homes TUMF now at $8,873 per dwelling unit will increase to $9,146 in 2020. Other TUMF fees for multi-family residential units ($6,134), industrial projects ($1,77 per square foot), service commercial projects ($4.56 per square foot) and office spaces ($2.19 per square foot) will remain the same or only very slightly increase by 2020.

After looking over the new TUMF schedule recently buoyed by a NEXUS study, was presented to the council by Assistant City Manager Jason Simpson. Lake Elsinore Councilman Steve Manos was first to speak questioning the recent TUMF projects approved by WRCOG. He pointed to the approximately $22 to 23 million in TUMF collected from Lake Elsinore by WRCOG in recent years and asked how much of it was used for Lake Elsinore transportation projects. Assistant City Manager Jason Simpson said some money had been used on Central Avenue and money set aside for Railroad Canyon, “other than that there is not much more.”

Manos said he knew there was about used $4.5 million on the Temescal Canyon Bridge, some new bus stops and some on Railroad Canyon and Ortega Highway improvements coming to about $5 to 6 million spent out of the $22-23 million collected.

“I have a problem with the equity of the TUMF program,” Manos said, He read off some TUMF funded projects that benefited other neighboring cities like the I-15 Newport Road project, but criticized the widening of Railroad Canyon to a six-lane highway for $7.6 million. “That was approved in front of Canyon Lake. You know what they contributed to that – I have that figure, $721,578, not even a million dollars.”

He suggested that a welfare city like Lake Elsinore’s tax dollars taken from its developers and put in another place was problematic.

He said he was concerned that Lake Elsinore that is not yet residentially built out will find its developers paying more TUMF fees that will be going to other cities projects who, because they are nearly built out, will be collecting and contributing less. “The deck is stacked against us,” Manos said.

City Manager Grant Yates agreed the city has not received its proportionate amount of TUMF money yet but there are projects planned by WRCOG that will give the city the full benefit in the future TUMF fees including improvements on Lake Street and Nichols Road that have never been included in the NEXUS study.

Lake Elsinore City Mayor Robert McGee said while there are some benefits in the new fees, particularly in the retail commercial area, he felt the city has been “ganged up upon the by the other cities.” He city Canyon Lake’s Railroad Canyon project saying the street improvements were “almost gold-plated…I don’t understand why we can’t get the same benefits.”

He said the city in working with WRCOG network and the TUMF has also had to give up land for transportation projects. Noting the Canyon Lake has not given a single acre to mitigate the projects while Elsinore has had to give up nearly 4,000 acres of its land around the lake.

“We should ask WRCOG for a five-year holiday just like Beaumont did while we are going through our cycle and get a generous help package,” McGee said.

He added, “We can’t be the whipping boy any longer and get out of both programs.” He said he would go ahead and approve the TUMF schedule anyway but called for a work session to consider Lake Elsinore getting out of WRCOG for a time.

Councilman Brian Tisdale and Magee voted to approve the schedule, but with Councilman Daryl Hickman absent from the Aug. 22 meeting the vote was split 2-2 with Manos and Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Johnson, who said little during the meeting, casting ‘No” votes. The resolution to approve the fee schedule was tabled with the vote.

In the first NEXUS study (state required study to determine fair tax fees on development infrastructure needs) was called for in 2002 and updated several times. Assisting in setting the fee schedule were members of the area Building Industry Association representing affected developers.

Each member city votes on the uniform TUMF schedule. Each city has an equal vote in any proposal made including the TUMF schedule. San Jacinto and Hemet recently approved the new TUMF

WRCOG member cities and unincorporated areas include Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, San Jacinto, Hemet, Riverside, Corona, Wildomar Perris, Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula, Beaumont, Banning, Moreno Valley, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Calimesa, Jurupa Valley and Norco.

In other items, the council heard a report from Lake Elsinore Community Development Director Grant Taylor about what the city’s code enforcement are doing to clear huge amounts of trash and debris left by the homeless once or twice a week. Photos of some of the trash piles left by the homeless and their locations were shown with the presentation.

Taylor reported that in a single day his officers removed 60 yards of trash totaling two and one-half tons, removed 10 transients and found 15 full shopping carts of homeless collections. Some of the locations shown included Cambern Avenue, along Highway 74, Chaney at Riverwalk, outside of Butterfield Mobile Home Park, an encampment at Machado House, Four Corners area and along East Lakeshore Drive.

“We do this once or twice a week,” said Taylor. “It’s a never-ending battle.”

He named and praised the four code enforcement officers that continue to work on the homeless cleanups.

The activities and road closures set for the upcoming Nov. 9-11 Lake Elsinore Grand Prix race was also provided to the council.

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