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3:25 AM Thu, Sept. 20th

Council grapples with fees, OKs one

PRESCOTT — One of two new fees under consideration by the Prescott City Council got partial approval this week, while another generated little controversy.

At its voting session on Tuesday, the council conducted a public hearing for a new water resource development fee that the city is considering as a means of helping to pay for its proposed purchase of the Paulden-area CV/CF Ranch.

In addition, the council approved a new annexation fee that will add $750 per acre to the cost of annexations that exceed 250 acres.

The new water resource development fee, which would add $2,472 to the cost of building a new home in Prescott, and between $3,436 and $29,343 to the cost of new businesses, raised some questions among the council during this past week's study session.

Some of the council members had questions about how the new residential fee would affect affordable housing efforts, while others maintained that the new business fee could hurt the city's economic development plans.

But this week, the public hearing on the fee attracted only one speaker. Local resident Howard Mechanic maintained that the city should separate the affordable housing issue from the question of whether new development should pay for itself.

Mayor Rowle Simmons agreed. "Basically, affordable housing needs to be addressed in a separate venue," he said, emphasizing that even though affordable housing did not make it on the council's list of top priorities for the coming year during last weekend's planning retreat, it is still a concern of the council.

Councilman Jim Lamerson questioned city staff members about the timing of moving ahead with the new water fee before the council decides definitely whether to buy the CV/CF Ranch.

Budget and Finance Director Mark Woodfill point-ed out that if the council approves the new fee in February, it would not go into effect until May – after the city must decide whether to exercise its option to buy the ranch.

The city could adjust the fee after that, should the purchase not go through, Woodfill said.

Another fee under consideration Tuesday got council approval by a narrow margin. In a 4-3 vote, the council approved the fee that would add $750 per acre to the cost of annexing land into Prescott city limits. The fee would apply only to annexations of 250 acres or more.

At last week's study session, City Attorney John Moffitt proposed a two-tiered fee that would have involved a $750 fee for both the development agreement process and the actual annexation.

After some council members questioned the $1,500 total fee, Moffitt suggested an option that would cut the amount in half, and would apply only to the annexation portion of the process.

Council members Mary Ann Suttles, Jim Lamerson and Bob Bell voted against the new fee, while Simmons and Councilmen Steve Blair, Bob Roecker and John Steward voted for it.

The new fee will not apply to the city's pending annexation of a portion of the Granite Dells and Point of Rocks ranches, Moffitt said, because the city already has a development agreement in effect for those two annexations.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com