Annexation OKed without impact fees but developer still pays
by David Crowder
Posted on February 10, 2009
El Paso grew by nearly a square mile today with City Council’s annexation of 586-acres off Zaragosa Road where developers plan to build 7,500 homes for more than 20,000 residents.
The council unanimously approved the addition to the city’s boundaries and along with the zoning for it all after hearing about and discussing the disadvantages of letting the city sprawl ever outward at the fringes.
The only public opposition to the annexation came from the El Paso Regional Sierra Club’s Bill Addington. He spoke against “leap-frog development” that he said costs El Pasoans too much money to furnish with water, police and fire protection and other services.
“I highly recommend you stop this. The interests of the city are not served by it,” Addington said. “Sierra Club wishes they would develop inside the city.”
The 586-acre parcel represents the latest phase in the friendly annexation of more than 2,000 acres that Douglas Schwartz and Ranchos Real IV negotiated several years ago under terms that were advantageous to the city.
The look and feel of the new development should be close to what the majority of the City Council has wanted to see in recent years, with shorter, narrower streets and parks within easy walking distance of every home.
Gone from the Ranchos Real IV Ltd.’s master plan are the long and unconnected spaghetti-strand streets and parks that are few and hard to reach – features that common to many Eastside subdivisions.
Impact fees and how El Paso does it without them
Among the things Addington complained about was El Paso’s lack of impact fees that nearly all cities impose on developers to pay for major streets and other infrastructure construction so those cities’ taxpayers don’t have to.
But Schwartz, vice president of Ranchos Real, later said what every developer knows – that El Paso collects those infrastructure costs without using impact fees.
“In most cities where impact fees are required, the cities provide arterial streets and all the major infrastructure … whereas in El Paso, developers pay almost 100 percent of all the infrastructure,” he said. “Under this development agreement, the PSB is paying for major (water and sewer) mains, but we’re getting charged an annexation fee to recoup the cost.”
When a city imposes impact fees, the developer pays for major streets, water and sewer lines, parks and sometimes police and fire stations up front and then the city builds them.
In El Paso, the city simply requires developers to put in the major and minor streets along with water and sewer lines in each new subdivision and the city maintains them. El Paso has not, however, sought to recover costs for fire stations and libraries, but has recouped some of those costs through annexation agreements with developers.
All 2,000 acres of Ranchos Real IV’s negotiated annexation are coming in under the city’s former subdivision code, which would have allowed those spaghetti-strand streets and parks with grass and nothing else.
But Schwartz said the subdivisions will look more like what is called for in the new subdivision code the council adopted last fall.
“The parks are within an eighth of a mile of every house and will be fully developed with basketball courts, playgrounds and walking paths,” he said.
City Rep. Susie Byrd pushed hard on the council for changes in El Paso’s subdivision development code and the introduction of so-called smart growth principles and a smart code to alter the way subdivisions are designed.
“In theory, I agree with Addington about development in El Paso, but we’ve made significant steps to change things,” she said. “For instance, Addington said we don’t do anything to encourage infill development, but we do and we have seen some great examples.”
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To reach David Crowder, write to email@example.com or call (915) 351-0605, ext. 30
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