Payson letter outlines concerns about home permit bill

Photo via Town of Payson

By Mike Sunnucks | Rose Law Group Reporter

A bill at the Arizona Legislature to quicken the pace of local approvals for new home construction is backed by real estate groups but is opposed by a number of cities and towns across the state.

House Bill 2716 requires localities to act on single family building permits within seven days or the builder can potentially start construction without approvals.

Sheila DeSchaaf, deputy town manager and development services director for the town of Payson, encapsulates local governments’ concerns about the bill in a letter to State Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican who represents the town, in a letter.

Here is a text of the letter provided by DeSchaaf to the Rose Law Group Reporter:

Senator Rogers,

This letter hasn’t been proofread due to the urgency of getting it to you. Please excuse grammar or brevity. I appreciate you taking the time to consider our feedback. The Town of Payson still has concerns with HB2716. The language seems very stacked in favor of the applicant receiving the permit, and disregards many processes municipalities have in place to ensure the health and safety of the public prior to issuance. Payson is a small, mountain community and the majority of the single-family dwellings built are “custom” in nature. We do not see large amounts of tract homes being built, as is done in the Phoenix-Metro area. 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.

Based on the current language, the applicant does not need to receive site plan approval which ignores grading and drainage, zoning and setbacks, utility locations, etc. We feel that it would be irresponsible to issue a building permit (based on this legislation) and allow the applicant to begin construction, prior to any site considerations being made.

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. We see plans submitted by owner-builders, 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. We may not be unique in this aspect, but certainly this proposed legislation isn’t developed enough to account for all of these scenarios that we see routinely.

Similarly, our office commonly receives complaints or inquiries from residents when a home is started on an infill lot next to them. These existing homeowners are concerned about how their property will be affected by erosion or water flowing onto their properties and threatening their home or other structures/investments. Mandating a permit be issued without regard for site considerations means we can no longer advocate for or provide assistance to residents with concerns of this nature. Because Payson does not have tract home development we are concerned about the impacts on surrounding lots/improvements by infill development. We have limited stormwater infrastructure and older neighborhoods built in the ‘50s and ‘60s see lots of surface water move across their properties.

Lastly, the Town of Payson currently requires water impact fees be paid prior to issuance of a building 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. As a small rural community with limited staff, this concerns us greatly.

We feel that a bill like this that was crafted to address specific issues in a select few communities in the Phoenix-Metro area cannot effectively be applied to all communities, especially small rural communities like Payson. We urge you to vote NO on HB2716 and support non-legislative solutions to the issues that resulted in this proposed bill.

Sincerely,

Sheila DeSchaaf,

Deputy Town Manager

Development Services Director

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