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City Delays Sewer Fee, Boosts RV Park Plan

January 29, 2013 by   - () Leave a Comment

Leaders in Half Moon Bay, Calif., agreed to postpone collecting more than $150,000 in sewer fees to help launch a long-planned RV park and a hotel expansion connected to Cameron’s Inn & Restaurant.

Local business owners and brothers Cameron and Kevin Palmer have been working since 2008 to open the “Birds of Paradise” park, a bird-watching-themed campground on a vacant parcel formerly used for commercial flower-growing along Wavecrest Road, the Half Moon Bay Review reported.

When it was first unveiled, the development was cheered on by elected officials and locals as a viable way to promote local eco-tourism. In the years since, it lost momentum from a lack of investment money, according to a city staff report.

One snag in the plan was paying the six-figure sewer hook-up costs necessary to host dozens of RV campers and hotel guests. City municipal code requires that any development prove that it first has adequate sewage capacity before city officials can grant building permits.

As proposed, the campground would include spaces for 62 RV visitors and 33 new hotel rooms. A city staff report indicates the Palmers intend to build the campground first, and delay expanding the hotel until economic conditions improve.

But the campground alone would require sewer fees equivalent to construction of 31 new houses. The connections would cost about $159,000.

The Palmer brothers approached the city council in November, requesting a plan to pay that bill over five years at 4.5% interest. They offered the campground property and a second parcel off Highway 1 as collateral in case they defaulted. That proposal came back last week to the council on a staff report included on the consent agenda.

Councilwoman Marina Fraser asked that the item be pulled for discussion, saying she wanted to make sure the city was being fair.

“Certainly this will bring value to the city and to the owner, but I don’t want this to be precedent-setting,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re not doing this for a particular person, that we’d be doing this for anyone in this situation.”

Fellow council members and the city attorney dismissed the notion that they would create precedent, saying the RV campground was one-of-a-kind. It isn’t uncommon for a city to defer fees, said City Attorney Tony Condotti. He acknowledged that such a deferment usually didn’t happen at a late stage when a project was nearing construction.

Other council members said they would evaluate future proposals on a case-by-case basis.

“They’re all unique and I’ll evaluate each one independently,” said Mayor Rick Kowalczyk. “Supporting this item, I’m not saying I would support every other item. I may or I may not.”

The council unanimously approved postponing the sewer fees.

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