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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 1:42 am | Fair 50º


Goleta Council Votes to Increase User Fees, But Drop Signage Costs for Old Town Businesses

Bending to the pleas of Old Town Goleta business owners who were tired of paying hundreds of dollars to put up new signs, the Goleta City Council on Tuesday decided to exempt the group from a planned bump in city user fees.

The council unanimously voted to approve a 4.4-percent increase in user fees for planning-related services, the first such raise since 2012 made in order to keep up with a Cost Price Index, or cost of living, increase.

The change, effective July 1, is expected to bring in $40,000 in revenue to Goleta’s general fund.

User fees are based on the cost of city staff providing a service, and Goleta’s fee structure is based on a 2008 consultant cost analysis — a study the city plans to update later this year to ensure the amount of time and effort aligns with each task.

Business license fees were exempt, since those increases must be approved via ordinance or resolution, but two Old Town business owners highlighted the cost of signage.

To put up a new wooden sign on her Magnolia Avenue business, Santa Barbara Gift Baskets owner Anne Pazier said the city was charging $575 to put the sign up plus $773 to go through the Design Review Board process.

Under new fee increases, the cost to put up a sign rises to $600 and the DRB process is $807. For a full list of fee increases, click here.

Pazier suggested that the council put a moratorium on fees through the end of 2015 so business owners could be included in the re-evaluation process.

“The moratorium of fees is critical, especially to small-business owners like myself,” she said.

Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Kristen Miller seconded Pazier’s idea, saying, “I love that she’s got a solution and not just a complaint.”

Goodland Kitchen owner Julia Crookston said she went through the same hassle with the city except she just put up a sign and ignored the fees.

The council holds the hands of big businesses all the time, she said, so officials should help the small ones, too.

“Why do we have to charge $575 … to have somebody look at a wooden sign?” City Councilman Roger Aceves asked. “It doesn’t make sense to me. I hope the (future) study shows where we’re totally out of whack with what we’re charging.”

Council members were sympathetic to the plight of business owners but contended fees need to be raised sooner than later because the city would be eating up inflation costs until a follow-up fee study was completed, most likely not until 2016.

Goleta staff said a user-fee study would be worked into the upcoming 2015-16 fiscal year budget.

Aceves put forward a motion to hold off all fee increases, which was seconded by City Councilman Michael Bennett before failing 3-2.

Bennett then proposed a motion to approve the fee increase but to exempt businesses in the Old Town heritage district from paying a new sign fee or for the Design Review Board fee, although they would still go through the process. Those fees would remain at zero until the new study was complete and adopted, he said.

“What about the ones outside the district?” Aceves said, noting it was somewhat discriminatory.

In the end, council members agreed to bolster Old Town business and to realign fees again upon completion of the fee study.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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