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PAG to discuss legislative plan to grab impact fee funds

A proposal in the Legislature to tap into cities’ and towns’ development impact fee programs for up to $210 million to help cut into the state budget deficit has area officials challenging the legality of such a move.

Enough so that it will be discussed at Thursday’s Pima Association of Governments Regional Council meeting.

Impact fees are used by local governments to make transportation improvements to meet growth.

“An action that will undermine basic infrastructure is not a good idea,” Gary L. Hayes, executive director of PAG and the Regional Transportation Authority, said this week.

PAG is the regional umbrella agency for transportation, air quality and population issues. Members include Tucson, Pima County, Marana, Oro Valley, South Tucson and Sahuarita.

The RTA’s 20-year regional transportation plan is largely funded with a half-cent sales tax that would not be impacted by the state taking the impact fees.

But impact fees collected by member jurisdictions also go to fund RTA projects, and that money would be sorely missed if appropriated for state budgetary relief, Hayes said.

“I looked at it and it struck me as an impossibility,” lawyer Martin Willett, Pima County deputy administrator, said Tuesday.

Willett is the county’s point man on legislative issues. He has heard and seen few details about the proposal, which would allow the state to dun cities and towns for $210 million in state-shared revenues that would have to be made up through their development impact fee programs.

“I would say they have no legal authority to take impact fees already collected by cities and towns,” said Mike Rankin, Tucson city attorney.

The city and most local jurisdictions have development impact fee programs where money collected from developers is used for road, park and sewer facilities improvements.

The enabling statutes approved by the Legislature in the past stipulate that fees collected for improvements made necessary by growth be used in the specific geographic areas of the new development.

“The only legal option for us is to use those fees for improvements needed because of the developments,” said Jason Baran, state and federal relations coordinator for the Tucson Office of Intergovernmental Relations.

Details of how supporters of the action would justify taking the impact fees were unclear, enough so that a planned state hearing on the proposal Tuesday was canceled pending more study.

Backers of the proposal have said it would involve the state holding back $210 million in state-shared revenues from cities and towns this coming fiscal year. The affected communities would have to replace those detoured funds from their impact fee coffers.


Impact fee links:

Tucson impact fee pages: http://www.tucsonaz.gov/planning/prog_proj/projects/cost/index.html#TopOfPage

Pima County: www.dot.pima.gov/transsys/impactfees/

Oro Valley: www.ci.oro-valley.az.us/BLDSFTY/PDF/Oro%20Valley%20Fee%20Schedule.pdf

Marana: www.marana.com/DocumentView.aspx?DID=312&DL=1

South Tucson and Sahuarita do not impose impact fees.

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