TAYLOR — The Town of Taylor appears to be working steadily on their response to the recommendations made by Town Attorney William Sims regarding a legal challenge by Concerned Citizens of Taylor over the purchase of property for the business park.
The town council directed staff to develop their response at a Jan. 9 meeting of the council.
The recommendations are:
• (Explore) the potential economic impact to businesses in the area;
• (Show) ADEQ approval of water & sewer lines;
• estimate flood insurance costs to businesses and residents and amount of reduction if flood plain mitigation plan is implemented;
• obtain an independent appraisal;
• negotiate price based on the appraisal, if necessary;
• confirm that the seller of the property (Jason Hatch or an entity created by Jason Hatch) is the legal owner of the property and has the power to sell the property;
• come back with a plan for floodplain mitigation efforts;
• come back with a floodplain mitigation plan confirming grant from FEMA and town matching funds and in-kind resources, at no additional cost to the town,
• commission a study to identify development options to be implemented by developers.
At their special meeting held on Feb. 11, the council declined to hold an executive session, but discussed the recommendations.
“We believe that everything that will be discussed in the next item will be out in the open,” Mayor David Smith said.
“We did have a lengthy executive season at our last meeting … and we were advised by our attorney, and you gave direction to staff to come to come back to you on a number of items pertaining to the purchase of the business park,” said Town Manager Gus Lundberg.
Lundberg offered responses to four items, in no particular order.
Concerning water and sewer at the business park, Lundberg said “we are currently in the process of submitting for construction approval and discharge approval for the water main lines and sewer collection lines that are located on the property. I can report that all testing has passed and those packets are being submitted this week to ADEQ (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.) I anticipate us potentially having that approval to report back to you at our next meeting in March,” Lundberg said.
Concerning an independent appraisal, Lundberg said “I thought we would have that completed by tonight, but it’s not complete. We’ve reached out to an independent appraisal company in Mesa. I have met with them and do believe that I will have that final appraisal in the next week, so I will present that to you at our next meeting.”
A related recommendation was to negotiate the price for the business park property based upon the appraisal. “Obviously, when we have the appraisal, we will approach that subject,” he added.
The final recommendation that Lundberg reviewed was to confirm that the legal owner of the property is Jason Hatch or an entity created by Jason Hatch, and that the owner has the power to sell the property.
“I can tell you that we have received a preliminary title report from the title company that Hatch Development LLC is the legal owner of the property in question. So we will have a more definite final answer on that next week as well.”
The other concerns outlined in the recommendation he said, would be largely covered in a presentation about the town’s floodplain mitigation efforts, made by civil engineer Robert Toy, president and CEO of CMI Engineering, who has been working with several White Mountain communities for over 20 years, including more recently, Taylor.
“These are all pertaining to economic impacts and floodplain management and control,” Lundberg said. “He’s not going to go through the checklist, but we feel all five of the items will be answered,” he said.
Toy proceeded to go through a presentation he called “Floodplain 101.” The presentation did outline the town’s floodplain planning and mitigation efforts, but did not offer a details about the benefits regarding the project’s effects on the business park’s location.
He said for many communities, the problem that is bigger than flooding is “getting the money to get out of that.” Toy has assisted with hazard mitigation planning grants for several area communities. These grants are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.)
“We have been successful in obtaining three key, and pretty huge grants for the town,” he said.
The Town of Taylor, he noted, has been very successful in garnering federal funding for flood mitigation work, through the long and complex FEMA process. FEMA helps to fund projects in order to reduce the future cost of damages caused by flooding. Only a handful of projects in the state get funding. The grants pay 75 percent of the cost of a project, with the municipality kicking in 25 percent. Significantly, towns can use in-kind spending, such as staff time, etc., for their match, further reducing the cost of the projects.
According to Toy, Taylor has been awarded two major infrastructure improvement grants for flood mitigation. The 2016 application for the Airport Wash project ($486,000 total cost) was awarded in 2018 and is under construction. Currently, the town is also working on another grant application for the Railroad Grade Wash project for $546,000 (total cost); that project has been selected by FEMA pending an environmental clearance required for the award.
As concerns the business park, the most significant FEMA project is the Pinedale Wash project, which was awarded $479,806 ($640,000 total cost) to install floodwater detention structures and natural and lined channels for draining floodwater. The application for the project was made in 2017 and was awarded last year, after which final design work began.
Toy told the council that he and Town Manager Lundberg had informed the previous owner of the business park that the project would reduce the number of acres within the business park that fall within the floodplain from approximately 21.6 to approximately 11.3 acres.
In an email on Wednesday, Toy and Lundberg said “the two projects were related because a) the proposed industrial park and existing development lies within a Special Flood Hazard Area [as defined by FEMA], and b) the proposed Flood Mitigation Project requires property within and adjacent to the industrial park for detention.” FEMA dollars, however, cannot be used for land acquisition.
The FEMA mitigation project does not include development in the business park, the email clarified.
In his presentation, Toy said removing properties from the floodplain increases their value for development, raising property values. It also reduces flood insurance costs and flooding damage awards. These benefits, he said are multiplied over time.
According to the presentation, for 2019 there are 43 National Flood Insurance policyholders in Taylor with about $35,000 in premiums paid and $134,000 in claims paid for last year. Toy did not estimate how much these costs might be reduced, as called for in the recommendations.
“The intent of the project is to file for a map revision by legally removing significant portions of the town from the designated flood hazard area,” Toy said. “That’s huge, that’s the holy grail.”