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Moratorium on impact fees lifted

<p>Mark Waite / Pahrump Valley Times - A sign marks the spot where a new Pizza Hut franchise will soon be built. County officials voted to lift a moratorium on impact fees recently, suggesting that local business development is strong enough the fees won’t have much impact on growth.</p>

Mark Waite / Pahrump Valley Times - A sign marks the spot where a new Pizza Hut franchise will soon be built. County officials voted to lift a moratorium on impact fees recently, suggesting that local business development is strong enough the fees won’t have much impact on growth.

It began as a scheme to attract businesses and thus jobs to Pahrump Valley. But now that development is beginning to pick up, county officials figure a moratorium on impact fees isn’t affecting decisions by businesses to locate here.

Ordinance 302, the Pahrump Regional Planning District impact fee ordinance, was passed in 2005 but a moratorium was enacted in 2012 and 2013. The moratorium will be allowed to expire Dec. 31 after county commission action Tuesday.

For each residence, builders paid $1,961 in impact fees, with $1,298 going to street improvements. The county gave $359 to the town of Pahrump for parks and $167 for fire protection. The sheriff’s department got another $137. Commercial impact fees ranged from 10 cents per square foot for developments of 25,000 square feet or less to six cents for developments larger than 400,000 square feet.

The Nye County School District still imposes a residential construction tax of $1,600 per home. From August 2004 when the school district levied the tax through July 2013, the school district collected $5.4 million, Nye County School District Chief Operating Officer Ray Ritchie said. They collected only $11,000 in June 2013, $9,700 in May, another $14,000 in March and April, he said. That’s a paltry sum compared to the construction boom days of 2004, when he said the residential construction tax brought in $150,000 to $200,000 per month.

Nye County collected $1.7 million from impact fees in the 2006-07 fiscal year during the construction boom, but collections dropped to $1.04 million in FY 2007-08, down to $472,342 in FY 2008-09, $224,334 in FY 2009-10, only $99,868 in FY 2010-11 and $26,004 for the five months of fiscal year 2011-12 before the moratorium was imposed Jan. 1, 2012.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen liked the suggestion to allow the payment of impact fees over time, instead of up front. He said there’s no evidence impact fees slowed construction. Commissioner Frank Carbone noted however builders could get a 10 percent discount by paying the fees up front.

“We were told over and over this was what was stopping development. There’s no evidence of that. We need these fees and they’re reasonable to mitigate some of the construction that’s going on,” Schinhofen said.

Commissioners Donna Cox and Butch Borasky voted against lifting the moratorium. Cox wanted to extend it at least another six months. Borasky didn’t make any comments.

“I still have an issue with this. I think this is a little soon yet to be taking off the moratorium,” Cox said. “Times are still bad and I think if anything this would just be one more deterrent to encouraging people to come in. At the same time I know we need some streets very badly.”

Schinhofen said if there’s any evidence the impact fees stopped somebody from building in Pahrump he’d like to see it.

“If $1,600 stops somebody from building a home, they probably shouldn’t be building it,” he said.

Nye County’s former Interim Community Development Director Darrell Lacy said the original intent was to encourage job creation. But when developers started presenting plans with the improving economy, Lacy said most never knew there was a moratorium on impact fees.

“They’re not coming here because of the impact fee they’re coming here because the economy is brightening,” Lacy said. But he added, “These people, when they find out our moratorium is expiring they may adjust their schedule to pull a (building) permit by the end of the year.”

Cox asked about imposing it for residential but not commercial developments.

“If someone comes up with a big subdivision at Mountain Falls, we don’t have the impact fees to pay for the reconstruction of Manse Road that is being accrued by the increased impacts of that subdivision,” District Attorney Brian Kunzi said.

The timing of the decision may be no coincidence as new developments are being announced.

Plans have been presented for a Dollar General Store on Highway 160 and Bell Vista Avenue. A Pizza Hut is under construction at Highway 372 and Pahrump Valley Boulevard. Pinnacle Propane just opened a bottling facility and office on East Basin Avenue. The old Su Mesa restaurant is being converted into El Jefe 2 on Calvada Boulevard. Spring Mountain Motor Sports Ranch recently constructed a Cadillac V series academy, with plans for retail development and a hotel.

County Manager Pam Webster, president of the Nye County Regional Economic Development Authority, said there’s also plans for another 100-room hotel. A developer is planning a 20,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor retail complex. Armscor, an ammunition company, plans to construct two manufactured buildings on Smart Way. The Valley Electric Association board will review plans for a proposed, new 30,000-square-foot administration building later this year.