SLO County supervisors get into heated exchange over parks funding: ‘Shame on you’
Nipomo park projects got a boost from the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday at the end of an acrimonious meeting marked by accusations of lying and shouts of “shame on you” between Supervisors Lynn Compton and Adam Hill.
The board voted 3-2 to approve a motion brought by Compton that directs county staff to work with community representatives of Jim O. Miller Memorial Park, Jack Ready Imagination Park, Nipomo Community Park and the Dana Adobe to identify potential projects and priorities for those parks. Priorities and potential funding will then be considered in the 2017-18 budget.
Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Hill voted against the motion, saying they objected to the way Compton raised the issue, accusing her of spreading misinformation and fabricating an injustice against her South County district over how developer fees have been spent there.
Supervisors also agreed 4-1 to designate $150,000 in developer fees — called public facilities fees — for a proposed skate park at Nipomo Community Park. Hill opposed the motion.
The vote came during a review, which Compton had requested, of public facilities fees. Compton has said fees generated by developments in her area were unfairly spent outside the community. A staff report shows that in 12 years, $10.88 million in public facilities fees was generated in South County and $2.02 million of those fees was spent there.
“South County has been the site of a lot of developments,” Compton said. “Nipomo has doubled in size in 20 years. They don’t feel like services have kept up in South County.”
Public facilities fees are collected by the county from developers as they build new homes and nonresidential buildings. They are meant to offset the costs associated with providing new public facilities to accommodate that new growth and development.
“I believe we’ve been slighted in South County,” Compton said.
About 40 Nipomo residents signed a petition given to the supervisors that said they “are appalled at SLO County’s misallocation of funds collected” and “demand restitution.” Dozens of Nipomo residents spoke during Tuesday’s meeting, decrying what they called a lack of county funds given to parks in their community.
County staff told supervisors that although the development fees collected for certain categories of services, such as law enforcement or libraries, must be spent within that category, the county’s public facilities financing plan “does not require the fees be collected or spent relative to a specific geographic area.”
State law does require local government to document “a nexus between the new development and the fee imposed and the facilities that will be built to accommodate it.”
South County has been the site of a lot of developments. Nipomo has doubled in size in 20 years. They don’t feel like services have kept up in South County.
Supervisor Lynn Compton
“Any injustice is manufactured,” Gibson said. “There’s been no illegal appropriation of funds. There has been an imbalance of distribution of funds based on need and opportunity.”
“When you make accusations that are deliberately meant to inflame a community, this is dangerous,” Hill said to Compton.
Hill asked the county’s attorney whether anything was illegal about the way the county’s public facilities fees had been distributed.
“From my perspective, the process has been followed as required by the statute, the ordinance and the policies,” said Rita Neal, who serves as county counsel.
County Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi said the county attempts to fund each area equitably through multiple sources.
“South County may have received less PFF fees, but may have received more grants or General Fund money,” Buckshi said.
Dozens of Nipomo residents on Tuesday appealed to supervisors to address what many see as the unequal distribution of fees that contributed to a dearth of public parks in the area.
“I understand the need to spread money around, (it’s) not getting spread very far to Nipomo,” former Supervisor Ruth Brackett said.
A 15-year-old boy gave an impassioned speech about the need for a skate park. And one woman said the lack of recreation in the area has had the biggest impact on working-class families in Nipomo who “don’t have the privilege to leave town to go recreate.”
Coaches lamented the difficulties of organizing teams without facilities, and leaders involved in park projects made a plea for more county support for the projects.
When discussion went back the board, Hill rejected Compton’s proposal, saying she chose a process that focused on “misinformation, conspiracy and injustice.”
“If I had a couple of months, I could get people from each community to discuss with great passion about what is missing in their community,” Gibson said. “This is not in any way to diminish the public concerns expressed this morning. This is a countywide problem of a lack of resources to take care of young people.”
Compton said that money wasn’t spent where it was generated, and to say that fact is misinformation is “just a flat lie.”
That’s when Hill interrupted her and said, “Shame on you.”
“Shame on you,” she replied.
The back-and-forth was interrupted when Supervisor John Peschong called for a vote.