- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Planned parks and libraries have become the casualties of a revised Arizona law dictating how cities collect and use fees from developers.

Several cities around metropolitan Phoenix recently brought projects to a halt until they can find more funding, the Arizona Republic reported (https://bit.ly/1yRkv63 ) this month.

State lawmakers passed legislation in 2011 that changes how cities can spend one-time development-impact fees collected from builders and developers of homes and other construction.

City officials typically use the fees for infrastructure, public services and facilities around the development. The altered legislation redefined what “necessary public services” could be funded by the fees. In January 2012, sanitation, landfill, general government, arts and culture and administrative buildings were no longer eligible for funding.

The revised law also limits spending the fees on parks and buildings beyond a certain acreage or area. Now, the fees cannot go toward libraries beyond 10,000 square feet. A community center that stretches beyond 3,000 square feet and parks more than 30 acres also can’t use the funds. Furthermore, any developments funded by the fees would have to be finished within 10 years. Otherwise, all the money must be refunded.

The law took effect this past August.

Glendale and Scottsdale are some of the cities that have scrapped multimillion-dollar projects. Glendale spent $1.2 million in 2008 designing a new 33,500-square-foot library. The project in total would cost $27 million. After already being put on hold in 2010 because of the economic downturn, the library was shelved altogether. Erik Strunk, director of the city’s Community Services Department, said there was no way the city could have had the library built and open in 10 years.

“We basically had to go back and strip out a lot of capital-improvement projects in my budget, and the library is one of those,” Strunk said. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”

The town of Gilbert recently purchased parcels of land with the intention of developing larger parks. Now it will have to look for another way to fund them.

“I think parks down in the southern part of the city are going to be some of our largest concerns because there are some legitimate needs down there,” said Dawn Buckland, Gilbert’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Homebuilders lobbied for the legislation. Jackson Moll, of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, said it’s unfair to charge a fee that will be for a park that ends up being built across the city. If an amenity benefits people outside a development, then cities should find another source of money, Moll said.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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