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Developer sues Atascadero to avoid paying fees 

A SLO County developer is taking the city of Atascadero to court, arguing in a lawsuit that it shouldn’t have to pay development impact fees for the Oak Ridge Estates project, a 111-unit housing development more than two decades in the making off Highway 41 in rural western Atascadero.

Castlerock Development, which acquired the property when it changed hands in 2000, is claiming the city’s 2003 development fee ordinance can’t be “retroactively imposed” on the project. An October letter to the city penned by Castlerock’s attorney, David Lanferman of Rutan & Tucker LLP, contends that the developer already paid adequate impact fees connected to an environmental impact report from 1995.

The letter also claims the city is imposing “redundant” mitigation fees without a “nexus” to the project and is “taxing” the developer through the fees.

The lawsuit was first filed in SLO County Superior Court on Nov. 29 and a case management hearing is set for July 31.

Atascadero Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore told New Times on May 31 that every city has development impact fees that apply to citywide developments and “go up over time.” He said the fees are calculated according to the time a building permit is issued.

“This impact fee issue is one of these basic, top three things of city law and state law,” Dunsmore said. “To challenge such a basic thing is pretty precedent-setting.”

Castlerock is seeking permits now to move forward with building out the development after a long lag that was due to the recession as well as disagreement with the city over Highway 41 improvements. Currently, only 35 percent of the development is built.

The lawsuit hits as Atascadero is ushering forward the Eagle Ranch development, which proposes nearly 600 homes. Dunsmore said the Eagle Ranch negotiation should go more smoothly since the city expects to enter into a development agreement that will etch in stone the type of details that Castlerock and the city are feuding over today.

“That’s all put down on paper,” he said. “In the [Oak Ridge Estates] case, there was not a parcel map involved when it was proposed in the ’90s.”

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