The developers behind the Waveyard water park resort say it’s crucial for the project to go before Mesa voters in November’s election.
However, the vote on the resort complex could crowd a ballot that might also include a controversial property tax measure proposed by Mesa.
“We have some very, very specific company objectives related to when we open,” said Richard Mladick, one of the principal partners behind Waveyard, which is forecasted to open by 2010. “We can’t delay the vote for a year.”
An evolving development agreement between Waveyard and the city calls for a $20 million tax rebate for the Waveyard resort, which is planned for Mesa’s Riverview area near Eighth Street and Dobson Road.
The incentives package triggers a citywide vote on the development as outlined by the city’s charter, which was amended in 2004 after a failed deal to lure the Arizona Cardinals Stadium with city incentives.
A November ballot that includes measures asking voters to approve both a city tax rebate for the water park development and a secondary property tax to fund struggling city services could prove awkward — a point city officials have hesitated to acknowledge publicly.
Jerry Hug, also a principal partner at Scottsdale-based Waveyard, said the city’s budget issues and the Waveyard project are separate issues. “I think the city is evaluating what is best for the city and they’re wanting to move forward with a secondary property tax election,” he said.
Mladick, meanwhile, argued that the $20 million incentive that the city could provide Waveyard was based on the estimated sales taxes that would be generated at the park, and therefore would not represent a giveaway by the cashstrapped city.
“All the money coming from the project is new money,” he said. “Even with incentives, the city is still making millions and millions of net dollars that’s not there now and won’t be there if the project doesn’t locate there.”
The water park resort has been envisioned as a day-use park that would include a manmade white-water river, a resort hotel, condos and retail and commercial space.
Waveyard’s development concept is scheduled to go to Mesa’s Planning and Zoning Board on May 8.
The 125-acre Riverview property, now home to the nine-hole Riverview Golf Course and a city softball complex, would have to be zoned to accommodate the project.
Meanwhile, the city will continue to negotiate a development agreement with Waveyard. After clearing those hurdles, the Waveyard incentives offer could be approved for the ballot. However, the path is less clear for Mesa’s proposed multimillion-dollar bond package. City officials are hashing out how much money to ask for in the bond package, which is aimed to aid police and fire services and the city’s transportation network.
If passed, the bond package would be paid off by a temporary property tax. Property owners would be assessed fees for the 20-year life of the bond financing, and then the tax would be eliminated.
No decision has been made about when the bond package will make it on the ballot. If the city waits until 2008, it would avoid direct competition with the Waveyard measure.
Holding off until next year also would allow the city to continue its campaign to educate voters on the proposed secondary property tax. Mesa’s voters rejected a general property tax last spring.
A decision on whether to put the bond package, the Waveyard project or both issues on the November ballot would be required by this summer, according to election rules.
“This is just starting to become a conversation,” said Councilman Rex Griswold, referring to the timing of the property tax election. “How do you explain a complicated subject to people in the course of a few months?”