A sometimes contentious wrangle about fees paid by Fort Ord developers ended quietly — very quietly — Friday before base reuse directors.
The Fort Ord Reuse Authority board voted unanimously to approve a method for charging developer fees sought by developers, who said they needed the method's certainty for immediate projects and long-term plans.
"It's not just for The Dunes. It will help all developers' projects move forward," said Scott Hilk, whose Marina Community Partners is building the major mixed-use Dunes development in Marina.
The fees decision clears an immediate hurdle for pending plans for a multiscreen theater and more than 100 below-market-cost apartments in The Dunes.
FORA has been juggling its developer fees since August, when the board approved a then-controversial new policy. Proponents said the "formulaic approach" would give developers certainty about their costs and reduce the role of politics.
Critics contended the new system would give developers lower fees on top of a 27 percent decrease approved in 2011.
At the behest of county Supervisor Jane Parker, the board unanimously adopted "clarifying language" on the new fee process in January, which Parker said would better define FORA's authority.
That brought almost immediate fire from developers and several member cities, including Marina, Seaside and Del Rey Oaks, which have major Fort Ord developments in the works.
They contended the added language could push up fees to maximum rates and create more uncertainty for developers — the opposite of what FORA intended in August.
Last week, Parker was the lone dissenter in a 10-1 vote by FORA directors to go back to the fee process approved last summer. That required Friday's second vote, for which Parker was absent, that carried without comment.
Earlier in the week, Doug Yount, interim Marina city manager, said the proposal to go back to the system approved in August was critical to the buildout of the The Dunes.
Plans for a 10-screen theater just south of the Dunes regional shopping center have been in the works since 2008, and city officials in November said they expected construction to start by the end of 2012.
"The fee issue is important to the theater and all Dunes development, and all future development on Fort Ord," Yount said in an email.
"Pending the action Friday, the theater should start site work within weeks and hopefully open by Dec. 13," Yount said.
South County Housing, developer of 108 below-market-rate apartments in The Dunes, voiced displeasure with FORA stepping away from the fee system approved in August.
"We urge FORA to consider the consequences of allowing uncertainty to exist over the level of future FORA fees in achieving goals for both below-market and market-rate housing at Fort Ord," South County Housing president Dennis Lalor said in a Jan. 24 letter.
A FORA staff report said Marina representatives and Parker were unable to reach agreement on revised language.
Marina City Councilman Frank O'Connell said the fee system approved in August was better for developers in bringing certainty.
"They want to have consistency throughout (the FORA area)," he said.
Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or firstname.lastname@example.org.