County Manager cites favorable bond rates
By Dana Trumbull
Capital Improvement Projects Considered
At the Pinal County Board of Supervisors (BOS) work session held May 29, County Manager Greg Stanley briefed the Supervisors on six proposed Capital Improvement Projects for the 2019-20 budget. The new construction and renovation projects, estimated to cost $78 million, would be primarily bond financed, with $8 million coming from other available funds.
“The bond rates right now are such that it would be to our benefit to do this now in a big lump sum and move as quickly as we could,” explained Stanley.
Bonds issued by the county do not need to be approved by voters; however, public notice and hearings are required prior to a vote by the Board of Supervisors.
Citing the county’s Master Plan, which states, “Strategic Priority 1: Provide efficient services, optimizing resources to meet diverse needs…” Stanley presented designs for new county district offices in San Tan Valley ($16 million) and Maricopa ($11 million), a new County Attorney building in Florence ($20 million) and a replacement building within the current county complex in Florence, which would house Development Services and the Emergency Operations Center ($16 million). Three additional renovation projects in Florence have not yet been designed (estimated $5 million each). All projects would be located on county-owned property.
Estimates do not include additional staff that may be needed after reallocation of personnel. Stanley noted that portions of the buildings intended to accommodate future staffing needs would be “gray shelled” (final interior finishes left incomplete) until needed.
The proposed San Tan Valley complex would be located at Bella Vista and Schnepf Roads on 5 acres of county-owned land near the Central Arizona College San Tan campus. It would contain two buildings, with a total area of 48,200 square feet. “We have a number of agencies that would occupy the building,” said Stanley, listing the sheriff’s office, county supervisor’s office, clerk of the court, development services, assessor, recorder, treasurer, Family Advocacy Center, and adult and juvenile probation centers.
The operation and maintenance cost of all new and renovated facilities would be offset by energy efficiencies built into the building designs and “getting rid of” the need to lease office space for current services.
The plan was not eagerly received by the Supervisors. “Before I could get on board with that, I would need to go way back to the need for each of those facilities – manpower, square footage, use…” commented District 3 Supervisor Stephen Miller. “$70M is a lot of money. The bond people love loaning money to governments, because all we have to do is raise the taxes to pay the debt. But I’m trying to keep our tax rate going south. I’m going to be very cautious as we consider moving forward.”
Comprehensive Plan Adoption/Amendments
The Board of Supervisors also heard a presentation considering the re-adoption of the 2009 Pinal County Comprehensive Plan, as required by the Arizona Revised Statutes every 10 years. Three Major Comprehensive Plan Amendments would be presented later in the year, including 1) a request to expand the San Tan Valley Area Plan boundaries by approximately 932 acres on the southern edge of the area; 2) a proposal to require a Major Comprehensive Plan Amendment for the re-designation of 50 acres or more of Open Space Land and 3) an amendment to the Green Energy Production Land criteria.
According to County Planner Steve Abraham, the San Tan Valley expansion request grew out of the “Plan San Tan” efforts, addressing the desire of residents to keep the area natural and rural. The proposal would change the current designation from Very Low Density to Rural Living, adding a layer of protection in future zoning decisions.
The Open Space proposal would affect all lands, county-wide. “We’ve noticed that, per the Comprehensive Plan, we have no clear direction on how to preserve areas that are pristine open space,” explained County Planner Gilbert Olgin. “This text amendment would require developers to go through the Major Plan Amendment process in order to determine if it’s the best use for the open space.”
Several Board members expressed concern that the specified acreage was too low, presenting an unwarranted obstacle to developers who “by some miracle” (District 1 Supervisor Pete Rios) might want to build in some of the more economically challenged areas of the county. “Do we want to protect pristine areas along the San Pedro watershed? Absolutely!” commented Rios. “But there are other areas that can be developed.” The supervisors agreed that the total acreage required to trigger a Major Plan Amendment would need to be increased significantly before they would support the change.
The third proposal seeks to allow a change in land use classifications to Green Energy Production to a less restrictive text amendment for areas of less than 640 acres. “Green energy designations are reserved for utility grade photovoltaic solar power generation facilities,” explained County Planner Sangeeta Deokar. “Passive photovoltaic solar is generally considered a benign land use.”
The 60-day Major Comprehensive Plan Review timeline was kicked off with the BOS work session. The Planning and Zoning Commission will return at a work session on August 14, to present modified proposals.
*Contact information for the five County Supervisors can be found here (click on photo): http://www.pinalcountyaz.gov/bos/Pages/Home.aspx