Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trust land talks reach an impasse

The Associated Press

Published: 03.27.2008

PHOENIX - Talks aimed at reaching a legislative compromise on a ballot measure on state trust land have hit an apparent impasse that likely means no proposal goes to voters in November, a top aide to Gov. Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.
The talks hit a blockage over whether to prohibit use of impact fees on new homes from being used to purchase trust land for conservation as open space under a proposed new process for trust land, said Mike Haener, a deputy chief of staff to the governor.
That at least dims, if not extinguishes, prospects for agreement this session on a consensus package that lawmakers could put on the November ballot, Haener told The Associated Press in an interview.
The state's roughly 9.3 million acres of trust land represent a century-old legacy from statehood that has seen recent unsuccessful efforts to set aside large parcels for conservation as open space while protecting funding the land provides for public schools through sales and leases.
Months of negotiations have taken place since Napolitano last summer convened a gathering of key legislators to try to forge a compromise on trust land proposals - a subject of frustration in recent years for lawmakers and advocacy groups as diverse as teachers, home builders, conservationists and cattle ranchers.
Trust land accounts for about 13 percent of the state's total real estate.
Its future development or preservation, especially in urban areas, has received new attention as sprawl increases pressure for conservation of open space at a time when the state is trying to increase funding for education.
Home builders, whose industry is a major economic force in Arizona and one that has significant sway at the Legislature, had sought the prohibition on use of impact fee money, arguing it would burden a struggling industry, dampen prices paid for trust land and use impact fees for inappropriate purposes.
Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr said the prohibition sought by home builders is unacceptable because multiple funding sources are needed to acquire trust land for conservation purposes.

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