Funds will pay for new streets surrounding parks

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - This one-half street and associated improvements (on Pine Street) is adjacent to the developing Bornstedt Park. It was installed about one week ago at a cost of about $75,000, a cost the city has to pay from its parks fund because the street is not adjacent to land where homes are being built and charges could be assessed.The city of Sandy is now charging about $1,000 more to build a home within the city. A recent majority vote of the City Council approved the increase in parks system development charges (SDC).

Essentially, city officials realized that the method of figuring how much the city needed to pay for neighborhood park upgrades wasn’t high enough if the city built the park at the edge of a subdivision instead of allowing the builder to plan a park within the development.

The difference is the cost of the one-half street, curb, gutter and sidewalk immediately adjacent to the park. That’s a cost that cannot be attributed to the developer or builder because the street isn’t immediately adjacent to land where a home is being built.

The change in SDCs is a process initially begun by Scott Lazenby, former Sandy city manager, and picked up by current City Manager Seth Atkinson and Community Services Director Nancy Enabnit.

It was one of those times when someone realizes that the scenario has changed and says, “Oops.”

“What we have to pay just for that short piece of Pine Street half-street improvements is about $75,000,” Enabnit said, “and that’s park money — not street money.”

Enabnit’s point was that by spending thousands on streets surrounding parks, it leaves fewer dollars for capital improvements within the parks.

Increasing the SDCs, then, is the city’s way of funding the cost of those upgrades that otherwise would deplete a pot of money destined to maintain the parks and add to its facilities.

Enabnit told the council it needed to make the choice between borrowing money and paying the cost of street improvements near parks or charging the people who will be using the parks.

“It certainly is the council’s call,” she said, “of whether we want to spend the next five years paying back (a loan from) the street fund for paving streets or if we want to be able to fund some of the capital improvements we’re hoping to come up with in our update of the Parks Master Plan.

“These are the two issues we’re grappling with: being able to pave these streets because we have to or being able to do some capital improvements because we want to.”

Objections came from Councilor Carl Exner, who said costs are already high and this might cause a reduction in development in Sandy. He suggested going slow and perhaps implementing smaller increases more often.

The last time parks SDCs were changed was in 2004, and Enabnit said there are other cities with parks that have higher SDCs.

An objection also came from Councilor Grant Baker, who said all the council did in the past three months was raise fees.

Council President Jeremy Pietzold agreed with Baker there has been a number of recent fee increases, but said that shouldn’t prevent the council from raising fees to cover necessary costs incurred by the city.

Councilor Lois Coleman reminded the council that builders consider this a cost of doing business.

Atkinson said an additional resolution, in conjunction with this one, would add fees to coincide with inflation since 2004.

City Attorney David Doughman said builders could get SDC credits if they install infrastructure for which the city is responsible.

He also reminded the council this is a policy decision, and the council could choose to transfer the cost to taxpayers instead of people who build homes.

With Pietzold stepping in as chairman (for the absent Mayor Bill King) at this meeting, he counted the approval vote for both resolutions at 4-2, with Exner and Baker voting against the resolutions.

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