The Mesa City Council voted 4-3 Monday to raise the city’s cultural impact fees, and a homebuilders group is threatening litigation in response.
The council decision raises the cultural impact fee on new houses by 85 percent, to $237 per single-family home. Lower rates charged on townhouses, apartments and mobile homes also went up, by 81 percent to 88 percent.
Mesa assesses 10 different impact fees on every new home to defray the cost to the city of providing services to new residents.
Most Arizona cities charge impact fees, but Mesa’s separate tax for cultural facilities is unusual in Arizona.
Erin Patterson, deputy municipal relations director for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, said impact fees can only be collected for "necessary" public services under state law, and "we do intend to use all of our legal options to oppose this fee."
Since impact fees are figured into the price of a new home, she said, "because this is not a necessary public service, we believe there are some people who will be paying these fees but won’t be using the facilities."
City Councilman Kyle Jones said residents may in many cases pay for services they don’t end up using.
Councilman Mike Whalen said cultural destinations are essential to a city. "I think they are necessary for a balanced community, just as necessary as a courthouse."
Whalen, Jones, Mayor Keno Hawker and Vice Mayor Claudia Walters favored the increase.
Councilmembers Tom Rawles, Janie Thom and Rex Griswold voted no. All questioned whether government should subsidize recreational programs for adults.
The total impact fee per single-family home will be $5,028 once the change takes effect.
The fee was figured by adding up the value of the city’s existing cultural facilities, a sum that doesn’t include the new Mesa Arts Center.
The money can only be used to build new attractions or expand old ones.
About $200,000 in already-collected cultural fees has been spent to help finish the arts center out of $800,000 the council budgeted, deputy building safety director Jeff Welker said.