BY LINDA BENTLEY | JANUARY 18, 2012
Carefree repeals development fees
Photo by Linda Bentley
CAREFREE – During the Jan. 10 council meeting, Town Administrator Gary Neiss introduced an ordinance to suspend and repeal all development/impact fees charged by the town.
In 2009, the legislature enacted a moratorium, which it amended in 2010, on increasing existing impact fees or imposing new impact fees through June 30, 2012.
Impact fees were originally introduced so cities and towns could reduce the financial burden new development placed on local communities.
Municipalities throughout the state have been assessing such fees based on their respective choices for levels of service and the costs associated with providing that infrastructure.
Neiss told council, “Due to the fact that the level of services in Carefree is intentionally limited to minimize the size of government, the resulting development fees are nominal,” pointing out the average fees charged for a single-family residence are approximately $4,400.
According to Neiss, Carefree has been assessing fees for Municipal Facilities, Streets, Open Space, Public Safety and Fire.
Each of the funds are restricted, may only be used for the purposes for which they are collected and, over the years, the funds collected in those accounts helped pay for infrastructure improvements.
Neiss said the only account containing a balance is Open Space. However, he said the town was investigating the acquisition of a parcel of land that would exhaust the Open Space fund within the next year.
He told council the legislature significantly amended the laws empowering local communities to collect development fees and restricts the purpose for which the fees are collected.
As a result, cities and towns were required to stop assessing fees not in compliance with the new law on or before Jan. 1, 2012.
The legislation requires new administrative procedures and studies to substantiate the town’s fee structure.
According to Neiss, the town’s development fees were never considered a significant revenue stream, were limited in scope and may only be spent for specific infrastructure purposes related to community growth.
Neiss said the elimination of the town’s development fees would not have a significant financial impact on the town and, because the cost to administer the fees would be more costly than the revenue generated, recommended the fees be sunseted.
Council agreed and voted unanimously to repeal all of its development fees.
Council also voted unanimously in favor of a resolution and two ordinances concerning sign-free zones in public rights-of way (ROW) and text amendments to the town code and zoning ordinance regarding political signs in public ROW and political signs on public property.
Neiss said a new law prohibits cities and towns from adopting or enforcing ordinances that ban political signs in public ROW, although the legislature carved out an exception allowing municipalities to adopt, by resolution, up to two ROW areas as political “sign free zones” if they are located in areas designated for commercial tourism and/ or commercial resort areas.
The resolution adopted by council designates Tom Darlington Drive, Cave Creek Road, portions of Pima Road, Stagecoach Pass, Mule Train Road, Carefree Drive and Tranquil Trail as sign free zones, which Neiss said meet the criteria outlined in the state law.
Mayor David Schwan reassured residents the designated sign free zones will have no effect on private citizens placing political signs on their private property.