Groups suing city of Mesa over museum impact fees

Posted on September 14, 2007 | Type: In the News
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The Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and the Goldwater Institute are suing the city of Mesa over fees it is charging developers and home builders to fund public museums and arts programs.

The real estate industry group and the Phoenix think tank filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court arguing that Mesa's "cultural facilities" impact fees on new construction violate state laws and legal precedents.

The suit states that impact fees charged on development and new construction can go only toward necessary services for those projects, such as roads and sewer systems. Mesa started charging special cultural impact fees of $59 on each new home in 1998 to help fund the Mesa Southwest Museum, the historic Sirrine House and public arts programs, but not the new Mesa Arts Center. That specific fee since has increased to $221 on each new home.

Other impact fees go toward city services and capital costs such as storm drainage, water, sewers, parks, police and fire services. Mesa charges total impact fees of $8,532 per dwelling -- up from $5,233 last year.

Mesa does not have a city property tax, and the city government has faced financial problems in recent years.

Municipal governments in the Phoenix area and throughout the country often charge development impact fees on new construction to help pay the infrastructure costs associated with those projects. Clint Bolick, an attorney representing the Goldwater Institute, said some city governments use the fees to spend money on extraneous programs.

Mesa spokeswoman Heather Gray said the city had not yet received court papers and so could not comment.

Jeff Goulder, a partner and head of the litigation department at the Phoenix law office of Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, said the lawsuit has a good chance of success, considering the Mesa cultural fees are not funding services related to new construction. "I think it is a valid argument," Goulder said.

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Home Builders Association of Central Arizona v. city of Mesa:

The lawsuit challenges the legality of Mesa's cultural facilities impact fees on new developments, contending such fees can be used only to provide services and infrastructure to developments. Mesa uses the fees to fund city museums.

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