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Divided stimulus task force to give council its ideas Tuesday

The group appointed by the Tucson City Council to suggest local economic stimulus efforts has finished its work and will present its recommendations to the council Tuesday.

But the Economic Stimulus Task Force had difficulty making decisions, coming up with its own ideas, reaching consensus on most proposals or even deciding who was a member of the task force.

“It was almost doomed to fail,” said Michael Guymon, executive director of the Metropolitan Pima Alliance and chairman of the task force. He cited political forces, ideological divides and strong personalities as reasons for why the task force struggled.

“It was important to committee members that not only the votes go to the council, but also the names and how each person voted,” he said.

The group – made up of representatives of builders’ associations, unions, housing nonprofits, neighborhoods and sustainability advocates – was created in the fallout of an acrimonious debate over Councilman Rodney Glassman’s proposal to suspend for a year some of the fees developers pay to cover the cost of new city infrastructure.

“If the council had voted on (Glassman’s proposal) Feb. 10, Rodney wouldn’t even have gotten a second,” he said. “(The council) turned this over to a stakeholders’ group knowing that in a month there were probably still not going to support a suspension (of impact fees).”

In order to get the task force moving, representatives of the Southern Arizona Home Builder’s Association, Habitat for Humanity Tucson, the Sonoran Institute and the Winterhaven neighborhood formed an ad hoc committee that resulted in the following suggestions voted on by the task force Thursday:

• Suspend for six months the fees developers pay to cover the cost of city parks and roads around new developments, called impact fees. After six months, defer the fees and require that developers contribute half of the interest they earn during the deferral to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. City officials are trying to establish the fund as a way to make homes cheaper by selling or renting houses while keeping ownership of the land on which the homes are built.

Recommended with an 8-7 vote, three abstaining.

• Streamline the city plan review and approval process by extending the period in which developers can get permits on approved plans from one to three years, assigning an employee to answer questions and coordinate between city departments and limiting comments and change requests to the first plan review. Also, defer the roads and parks impact fees, with half of the interest the developer earned over that time going to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Recommended with an 11-3 vote, four abstaining.

• Waive the parks and roads impact fees for affordable housing. For other development, defer the fees and require a contribution to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Recommended with a 12-3 vote, three abstaining.

A fourth suggestion was made during the Thursday meeting:

• Do a cost-benefit analysis to determine how much the city should contribute to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund from its general operating budget, which pays for parks, police, fire and various other city services and is projected to have a $30 million shortfall the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Recommended with a 10-2 vote, with six abstaining.

The task force was scheduled to meet Monday to discuss stimulus proposals not tied to impact fees. Results of that meeting were not available. The presentation of the report is on the council’s study session agenda, which begins at 2 p.m. at City Hall, 255 W. Alameda St.

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TASK FORCE MEMBERS

Michael Guymon of the Metropolitan Pima Alliance

David Pittman, Arizona Builders’ Alliance

David Godlewski, Southern Arizona Home Builders Association

Don Chatfield, Sonoran Institute

Jim Tofel, Winterhaven Neighborhood Association

Michael McDonald, Habitat for Humanity Tucson

Colette Altaffer, Neighborhood Infill Coalition

Jim Hannley, El Rio Neighborhood Association

Robert Medler, Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

Laura Mance, Tucson Association of Realtors

James Kuliesh, Association of Construction Trades

Brain Flagg, Casa Maria

Al Wiruth, Rita Ranch Neighborhood Association

Ron Proctor, Sustainable Tucson

David Welsh, Tucson Economic Opportunities

Corky Poster, Drachman Institute

Susan Soto, Metropolitan Housing Commission

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