City Manager says 2020 will be 'Year of Planning'

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City officials have an extensive list of projects for the new year, but financial realities could hinder their plans. City Manager John W. Donlevy, Jr. outlined current and upcoming projects planned for the near future, although he and city staff also spoke frankly about financial problems at the City Council meeting Jan. 7.  Donlevy’s comprehensive “Active Projects List” includes nearly 150 projects, everything from auditing Airbnbs in accordance with the recently adopted vacation rental ordinance to creating the Winters City Limits Specific Plan—a $400,000 project that would mean sweeping changes to how the city operates—if funding can be secured. “Get ready,” Donlevy told the Council. “It’s going to be very busy. The Council is going to be buckling down—you’re going to earn every penny of that $150 bucks a month.” “We’re going to be dealing with some of the biggest issues: climate, housing, homelessness, animal services, rural issues, transportation, energy, habitat. All the things that are boiling up.” “2020 will probably be the ‘Year of Planning,'” Donlevy said.  The following is only a selection from the Active Projects List (the full document can be viewed in the Jan. 7 City Council Agenda): Affordable Housing Developing an overall strategy for the management of affordable housing projects, reporting and compliance, including Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) implementation to provide affordable housing per state law. Projects like the Blue Mountain Terrace located on E. Baker Street, a 63-unit multifamily housing for seniors, and a two-acre parcel in the Stones Throw subdivision that has been set aside—both for affordable housing. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), production of which has been further streamlined by the state, will be important to provision of affordable housing, according to Council Member Jesse Loren. She said allowances for junior ADUs in addition to standard ADUs will enable on property to function like a triplex. Planning Documents A major project is securing funding for the Winters City Limits Specific Plan, which will prepare the City to complete other planning projects, like the Housing Element and General Plan update. The Winters City Limits Specific Plan hinges largely on the receiving of SB 2 grant funds. Donlevy reported that the application had been received on New Year’s Eve. The General Plan adequacy review and update is another major project on the horizon. It will include the following, as is the Housing Element. Public Outreach Community engagement goals are a priority for the City as it moves forward. The development of a public outreach strategy will incorporate workshops and surveys while encouraging public participation in the planning policy reviews. Climate The City is accepting applications or its Climate Action Plan (CAP) Development Board, which will consist of volunteers from the community. The Board will work to draft a. Climate Action Plan to recommend to the City Council. Related projects include developing a Climate Action Strategy Report and conducting a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory. Regional Projects Donlevy praised council members for their involvement on over 20 regional boards and committees. These projects involve city officials and staff working with groups like Valley Clean Energy, the Yolo Homeless Coalition and the League of California Cities, to name a few. Other similarly important projects include: • Parking. • Involvement with planning and building of subdivisions. • Updating software in various city departments. • Emphasis on criminal investigation and hiring a commander at the Winter Police Department. • Recruitment of volunteer firefighters. Coming up with the cash Mayor Bill Biasi said figuring out how to pay for the projects will be the most challenging obstacle the city will face moving forward. “There are a lot big ticket items on here,” Biasi said. “I’m not sure how much the community realizes how big these projects really—and every one of these projects costs money. For us to be able to come up with money to finance these various capital projects, to keep our staff here, to keep our city safe—it all takes money.” Shelly Gunby, director of financial services, provided a bleak report on city impact fees to the Council, which indicates funding for these projects—many of which are essential—could be difficult to come by. Gunby highlighted that impact fees–fees the city charges for services it provides–will not provide the revenue the city needs. She and Donlevy cited a period of almost zero growth in Winters between 2006 and 2015; just 11 single-family homes were constructed in that period, which has negatively affected property tax revenue even in recent years. Property taxes are not collected until two years after properties are purchased, meaning the 50-70 residences produced over the past few years haven’t provided revenue the city needs. “When you stop and think about the projects that are on the project list, that means we need to continue to collect enough funds because there’s just not enough money there to do the projects that we need,” Gunby said. “We’re talking about parks and streetlights and sewer and water pumps, landfills. We’re talking millions upon millions of dollars we haven’t collected yet.” Donlevy added that due to Winters’ small size, projects have a higher relative cost compared to larger cities. He said, “One of the issues we run into though compared to a lot of other communities–a project for us costs the same as it does for the City of Vacaville.” The city has been staying afloat with ad hoc funding sources–like the SB 2 grants may provide. Without sustainable revenue sources, the city will face difficulty achieving its goals and completing its responsibilities. The answer? Economic development. By fostering economic growth, Winters will increase revenue from taxes and fees, allowing staff to complete helpful projects, according to council members. Projects like Hotel Winters and the Fairfield Inn will serve as major economic drivers for the community. Another example provided by Council Member Loren was seismic retrofitting of downtown buildings, which, if funded, could be made use of for residences and businesses.]]>

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