Court upholds nearly $20,000 refund to Burbank Housing Development Corp. in school impact fee case

By Mary Ann Magnell | Sep 19, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – A state appeals court affirmed a trial court’s decision on Sept. 10 that granted a petition for a writ of mandate and declaratory relief, invalidated agreements as well as refunded Burbank Housing Development Corp. $19,557 in fees in a case over school impact fees.

“We conclude the agreements are invalid under the Stirling Facilities Act, former section 65995,” Presiding Judge Mark B. Simons of the First Appellate District, Division Five wrote. 

Defendants and appellants Bellevue Union School District and the city of Santa Rosa High School District had appealed the refund, which included school impact fees that had exceeded those authorized by former Government Code section 65995.

Burbank Housing Development Corp. paid the fees in 2014 that were required by the agreements. Burbank then petitioned for writ of mandate and for declaratory relief, “alleging the agreements were 'illegal, contrary to state law, and unenforceable,'" the ruling states.

In the contested agreements, former property owner William Lechmanski had agreed to pay half of the fees before building permits were issued and remaining half when the residences of the development were sold. These agreements were bound to Lechmanski's successor-in-interest, Burbank.

The trial court granted the petitions as well as invalidated the agreements, which had required Lechmanski to pay impact or mitigation fees, which were in lieu of the districts’ authority to levy and collect fees under the statutes. 

Burbank purchased the property in 2007 from Lechmanski to build affordable housing. In 2014 as Burbank was beginning construction, the school impact fees, according to the filing, would have been $276,000. Pursuant to the agreements, however, Burbank was required to pay $591,000. The districts allegedly refused to reduce the fees. Burbank applied for the building permits, however, “under protest, it paid half of the fees—$295,527—as required by the agreements,” the ruling states.

Burbank was refunded $19,557, which, according the court ruling, was the difference between the amount it paid to secure the building permits and the amount permitted under Section 65995. This decision prompted the appeal by Bellevue Union School District. 

State of California First Appellate District, Division Five case number A148801

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