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Banning Lewis Ranch deal has issues, auditor says 

click to enlarge PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck

In a review of the amended Banning Lewis Ranch annexation agreement, the City Auditor's Office notes the city will require only 205 acres of parkland to be dedicated by developers, less than half the 549 acres required under the city's Park Land Dedication Ordinance, and less than the 340 acres required by the Park System's Master Plan. The report was released on March 16 and raises questions about the new agreement, though an economic development study by consultant TischlerBise showed the city would gain a net $49 million over 30 years in tax money and fees if 7,400 acres of the 20,000-acre ranch — annexed in 1988 — are developed.

Regarding police and fire fees, Auditor Denny Nester reports the TischlerBise study contained "no supporting data or basis for the Agreement's police ($677) and fire ($1,631) fees." Those fees, to be charged per acre, are the same as those of other annexation agreements that require police and fire fees, but "do not cover the full cost of land acquisition, construction, and initial outfitting of the required police and fire stations," Nester's report says.

Moreover, it notes, the agreement will allow developers to pay those fees when they obtain building permits, whereas previous annexation agreements required payment upon annexation or plat recording.

"The need to construct police and fire facilities may occur earlier than when future building permits are issued," the auditor report says. Not only could the delay in collections "stress" city funds for capital projects, but the timing "would increase the administrative cost and impact City cash flow," the audit report says.

City management's response to the parks finding noted the parkland ordinance and master plans are being updated. City management called the public safety fees "appropriate."

The ranch has sat largely undeveloped due to what developers consider overly demanding public infrastructure requirements, envisioned in 1988 as a way to make development pay for itself. Council is due to vote April 10 on the proposed agreement.

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