The councils of Colorado City Arizona and Hildale Utah have adopted resolutions to reduce water impact fees by 180 dollars. This action was in response to the court order in the case of United States of America v. Town of Colorado City, Arizona, et al., which found that the Twin Cities had illegally discriminated based on religion.
The court ordered that the Twin Cities modify their water development impact fees if an independent review found that they were too high. The review was undertaken by Alpha Engineering, based upon water usage data from 2011 to 2013, a Water Rights Purchase Analysis, and meetings with local government officials and the UEP Trust.
While the report did find that the impact fees could be lowered by $180, one glaring element is the Water Rights Purchase Analysis. According to the report, “In our meetings with the UEP, it was reported that additional water rights for the City of Hildale could be provided at no cost to the community provided the impact fee was reduced to an amount agreeable to the UEP. It was also reported that water rights could be obtained in Arizona for no cost, which the IFFP [original analysis] considered.”
Documentation provided to the review team showed that there were meetings between the UEP and city officials in 2015 but that no agreement could be reached on, what appears to be, free water rights offered by the UEP. The UEP’s only stipulations were legal assurances that those water rights would not be sold by the cities so that the benefit would go to residents in the form of lower fees.
The city of Hildale then acquired water rights elsewhere, for a price tag of $355,600.00 which increased impact fees. The report says, “From our discussions with the UEP, it is our understanding that they maintain the position that they are willing to provide the water rights needed as part of the IFFP at no cost, provided the impact fee is reduced an amount proportionate to the credit given.”
The second point in the summary of the report says, “Water rights held by the UEP may be available at no cost, but the Client has already purchased water rights which were within the limits of the costs provided in the IFFP.” According to statements made at the meeting, there were no impact fees before 2014.
The cities will be required to undertake a new analysis within the next few years. That process will consider new data, perhaps giving a clearer picture of where the communities water needs are and may head if current trends persist. Many of the council members and the mayor expressed their desire to bring those fees down as much as possible.