The Arizona Legislature believes strongly in state’s rights.
Town rights? Not so much.
So local officials are mobilizing to try to stop a proposed state law that regulates how towns and counties process building applications.
Specifically, House Bill 2716 would require towns to issue building permits within seven business days of receiving an application — come heck and high water. If the town can’t meet the deadline — the developer can just start building.
And that’s got the Payson Community Development Department in a building state of panic.
“We feel that this legislation does not account for the challenges that exist in rural Arizona and is once again aimed at fixing problems the masses have had within Maricopa County,” wrote Sheila DeSchaaf, deputy town manager and development services director for Payson. She made the comment in a letter to State Sen. Wendy Rogers, who represents Payson.
The town currently processes most building permits within about two weeks — but can take much longer if the plan review reveals problems, like poor drainage, confusing plans, neighborhood opposition or utility infrastructure problems. The state law could leave little time to cope with any of those problems before the developer automatically gets a permit.
DeSchaaf said Payson’s topography and weather pose challenges with drainage, utility locations, grading, zoning and setbacks — making a seven-day limit on the review of building permits far more difficult. Town staff must sift through all those concerns before issuing a building permit — or the town could face consequences, said DeSchaaf.
“Scenario: Construction begins on a house and the contractor hits an underground propane line in a public utility easement on the property because no one first reviewed the site plan to ensure the construction was not infringing on the easement for the underground infrastructure,” wrote DeSchaaf.
Town staff also often reviews plans submitted by owners who have no general contractor experience.
“We work with them to ensure the safety of their project as well as the safety of the surrounding residents,” she wrote.
To ensure they hit every safety check, Payson requires approval of a site plan. However, the timeline outlined by the bill does not provide time to work through that checklist.
The town must also deal with complaints and inquiries from neighbors who worry if erosion or flowing water will threaten their homes.
“We have limited stormwater infrastructure and older neighborhoods built in the ’50s and ’60s see lots of surface water move across their properties,” she wrote.
But the real concern lies with collecting impact fees for water. Payson requires owners to pay water impact fees, used to help offset the infrastructure needed to provide water to the town, before the town issues a permit.
“This bill would inhibit our ability to do that and would place additional burden and pressures on us to track those applicants that did not pay,” wrote DeSchaaf. “As a small rural community with limited staff, this concerns us greatly.”
DeSchaaf closed her letter asking Rogers to vote no on HB2716 because a law like that “cannot effectively be applied to all communities, especially small rural communities like Payson,” wrote DeSchaaf.
If citizens have concerns about HB2716, contact Arizona House and Senate legislators.