Council endorses farmer for water district seat, lowers development fees

Santa Clara Valley Water District

City Council voted 6-1 during their regular meeting Monday night to endorse a longtime Gilroy farmer to the now empty seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors, as Gage resigned from the board Dec. 7 to step into his role as Gilroy’s new mayor.

Cherry farmer Ralph Santos, 61, is interested in taking the open seat, and Gage gave him a full-fledged, glowing endorsement and recommended his Council to do the same. 

“The board has three lawyers, one politician, union members, environmentalists, but no farmers. They don’t need any more lawyers. They don’t need any more politicians. They need a farmer to represent the agricultural needs in the county,” Gage said.

Competing for the seat is Dennis Kennedy, 74-year-old engineer and former Morgan Hill mayor.

“Farmers need a voice, so that’s the reason for Ralph,” Gage said.

Councilman Peter Arellano voted no on Gage’s proposal to endorse Santos, although he offered no discussion or rebuttal as to why he disagreed. 

Council will now draft a letter and send it to the water district that highlights their approval of Santos. 

The water district will vote to appoint one person to the two-year seat sometime in February. 

Also during Monday’s Council meeting:

Council voted 7-0 to approve staff’s proposal to lower development fees for water, sewer, traffic and storm impact by 18 percent across the board. 

After a 20 minute presentation by City Engineer Rick Smelser, Council approved the new fee schedule with no discussion. 

Staff wrote that the changing economic climate begs for adjusted development fees to reflect project costs, land values, construction costs and interest rates.

The current development fees were implemented in 2004.

“Since the 2004 study, and based on the effects of the Great Recession, the anticipated dollar values for construction, equipment, land and other related costs have changed and affected the underlying budget assumptions for projects included in the 2004 study,” staff wrote in their report.  

Development fees vary between residential, commercial and industrial projects.

Traffic impact frees for a low-density development is currently $11,809 per unit. The pending revised fees would drop that cost to $9,683, a $2,126 reduction. Sewer impact fees for a low-density residential development are currently $12,531 and would be reduced to $10,275 per unit. Residential water impact fees would see a $942 reduction, bringing the revised fee to $4,294 per unit. Storm impact fees would drop from $688 per unit to $564.

The new plan includes 4 percent annual increases to sewer fees for the first five years and 3 percent for traffic fees for six years.

Council interviews candidates for commissions:

During the first part of Monday’s meeting, Council sat around a long table with applicants for the various open seats on the City’s volunteer commissions. 

“That was the best turnout we’ve had in a long time,” Councilman Perry Woodward said to his colleagues when the interviews were completed. 

Gage agreed. 

“Sometimes we have a difficult time getting people to come volunteer, but we are very pleased to have the number we did tonight,” he said. 

One more thing about Monday’s meeting: 

As Gage took charge during his first meeting as mayor, he suggested that he address each Council member by their first name rather than by their more formal titles – such as “Councilwoman Aulman” and “Councilman Bracco.”

Arellano, a doctor at Kaiser Permanente, said that people will get confused if Gage addresses him by Peter, as Councilman Peter Leroe-Munoz also sits on the dais. 

“Okay, I’ll call you Peter A. and call him Peter M.,” Gage said. 

Over the phone Tuesday morning, Gage said that he chose to use first names to keep the atmosphere friendlier and more personal. 

“It keeps it on a personal level. We all know each other and we are all supposed to be on teams and get away from ‘Council member so-and-so'” he said. 


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