By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Developers of two subdivisions on Fulton Road are in line to receive $5.3 million in reimbursement for road improvements they made years ago under an agreement upheld by the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday.
Two Santa Rosa development firms, The Hugh Futrell Corp. and Rivendale Homes, spent nearly $9 million widening Fulton Road to four lanes as part of the construction of two subdivisions they built in the city’s northwest corner.
Since the road improvements benefitted numerous property owners in the area, the city allowed the developers to be reimbursed by requiring other property owners to pay their share of the road improvements when they develop their land.
That didn’t sit well with some property owners, who argued they weren’t consulted on the deal and said the additional fees would make their properties harder to build on.
Schellinger Brothers, a Santa Rosa home builder, asked the council to overturn the reimbursement agreement, which has been in the works for three years. The company has an option to develop several parcels on Fulton Road between Piner Road and San Miguel Avenue. It argued the reimbursement calculation was unfair in part because the storm drain wasn’t installed deep enough to benefit the properties they have an interest in.
“We’re not trying to get a free ride here,” Peter Schellinger told the council.
He noted the company did not object to a similar reimbursement scheme for the cost of sewer and water lines that were also installed.
But Schellinger argued that Hugh Futrell told the Planning Commission in 2004 that he would shoulder the entire burden of funding the upgrades, and therefore he shouldn’t be allowed to recoup his costs from his neighbors.
Futrell told the council that his words were being taken out of context. He did agree to fund the upgrades, but said the city always understood he would be seeking reimbursement down the road from others who benefitted from the upgrades.
He would never have undertaken the project otherwise, Futrell said.
“The idea that we would have spent $10 million mostly for the benefit of those properties and not expected reimbursement when they developed is absurd on its face,” Futrell said.
Public Works Director Rick Moshier said the storm drain was not built deep enough for a future Schellinger Brothers development because of the location of a PG&E gas main. Schellinger Brothers will not be charged for that portion of the cost because it can’t use the storm drains, he said. The company can hook up to other storm drains if it decides to develop the property, Moshier said.
The agreement lasts for 10 years, and if property owners do nothing with their land, they won’t have to pay anything. Similarly, if no one else develops the surrounding properties, Futrell and Rivendale Homes would receive nothing.
Council members said they regretted that the street improvements weren’t able to fully serve all the property owners in the area. But all agreed the deal seemed as fair as possible.
“I wish there was a win-win here for everyone, but clearly there is not,” Mayor Ernesto Olivares said.
The council voted 6-0 to reject the appeal, with Councilman Scott Bartley abstaining.