Tag Archives: local governments

Promoting Smart Growth in Down Economy

Promoting Smart Growth In A Down Economy

Please welcome Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association, and guest blogger to the AZ Green Scene. This is the first blog of our exclusive monthly blog partnership series, where Diane will share her experience and insight regarding the state’s sustainable industry.

Freezing impact fees to stimulate economic development runs counter to the principles of smart growth.

There is no evidence that placing a moratorium on impact fees results in any increase in residential or non-residential construction, according to a number of authoritative studies, including the Brookings Institution. Yet with the hope of establishing momentum in the development industry our legislature recently imposed a freeze on acquisitions and increases until June 2010.

Not only won’t this stimulate growth but it places a huge burden on Valley cities when they can least afford it. Most communities are struggling with severe budget cuts, reductions in personnel and impending tax hikes. Now they’re facing yet another economic hit in the form of lost revenue from impact fees.

New development should pay for itself, period end of story. Impact fees implemented by local governments on new or proposed developments assist or pay for costs caused by growth and expansion. These fees help fund the construction of offsite capital improvements including infrastructure and public services such as road expansion and maintenance, expanded police and fire services and increased demand on schools.

In short, impact fees effectively eliminate the financial encumbrance on local jurisdictions that are trying to deal with population growth within the area. The capital required to fund new growth is simply the cost of doing business.

The widely held perception that development results in economic growth is not always the case, however. Badly planned growth creates vast burdens that are often subsidized with tax dollars.

The financial crisis our state is now facing has little to do with impact fees. It’s the result of poor and unscrupulous lending and borrowing decisions that led to a nationwide credit freeze.

Legislation should work to promote livable and sustainable communities by creating viable incentives for developers to undertake projects within urban areas rather than in greenfields on city edges. Our policies should facilitate a balance between economic growth and environmental quality.
The moratorium on impact fees undermines smart growth while shifting the cost of development from one sector to another.

Diane BrossartPresidentValley Forward Associationwww.valleyforward.org

Renewable Energy

Arizona Awarded $9.5 Million For Energy Projects

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that over $354 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is being awarded to 22 states to go toward energy efficiency and conservation activities.

This money will be used to support state-level energy efficiency priorities as well as fund local conservation projects in smaller cities and counties.

Arizona received approximately $9.5 million “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage development, promotion and application of advances building codes and green buildings statewide.”

Eighty percent of the funds will be distributed to local cities and counties to implement their own energy efficiency programs.

In order to receive funding, it is then up to the local governments to focus on projects demonstrating a high return on investment, leveraged funds, jobs created, interactions with community colleges and technical and trade schools and a shared community approach.

The goal of the Recovery Act-funded projects will be to “..reduce energy usage and costs, increase the use of renewable energy applications within communities, and create jobs across the state.”

So what does this mean for Arizona? Only time will tell but I’m looking forward to seeing the various programs and incentives. One thing’s for sure, this is great news for our state, our nation and our sustainable future.

Read more about the announcement here.

construction companies

Construction Companies Can Be Exposed To Lawsuits When Assisting The Government During An Emergency

Imagine that you own a construction company and one of your employees comes in and tells you that the two largest buildings in town have collapsed. You receive a phone call a few days later from a government official who informs you that the police and fire department need your construction company to send heavy equipment and demolition crews to the site of the collapsed buildings to help remove large pieces of debris in order to save people’s lives.

Some large construction companies in New York were faced with that exact situation after the Sept. 11 attacks. The construction companies that helped clean up the World Trade Center disaster site were responsible for removing one-and-a-half-million tons of debris that covered many city blocks. Before long, the workers who were removing the debris started getting sick, as did police officers and firefighters who were stationed at the disaster site. Many of them have filed lawsuits against numerous entities, including the construction companies that were called upon to help with the debris removal effort.

The construction companies failed in a recent attempt to dismiss the lawsuits on grounds that they were immune from liability because they responded to an emergency situation.

Any business that decides to help in an emergency must protect itself, or face the legal consequences of the almost inevitable mistakes and accidents that will happen. With careful planning and prudent oversight, you can protect your business from lawsuits related to its help in an emergency or disaster situation in the state of Arizona.
Arizona’s immunity statute

The statute A.R.S. § 26-314(A) provides immunity for the state of Arizona and its political subdivisions (i.e., counties, cities and other local governments) for the actions or inactions of its “emergency workers.” The statute states that “emergency workers” shall have the same immunities as agents of the state of Arizona and its political subdivisions performing similar work. The term “emergency worker” is defined in part as “any person who is … an officer, agent, or employee of this state or a political subdivision of this state and who is called on to perform or support emergency management activities or perform emergency management functions.” Therefore, the only way to be sure your business is immune from lawsuits related to its assistance to the state or city government in a disaster or emergency situation is to wait until the government “calls on” your business to provide help.

Your business must always operate as an “agent” of the government to be considered an “emergency worker” and maintain its immunity. Your business will be considered an agent of the government if the government has the right to control the conduct of your business as it performs its work. Thus, you should determine who is in charge of the emergency site, and you should offer assistance to that person. You should seek detailed instructions from the person in charge and make sure it is clear that your business is operating under that person’s authority.

Should your business enter into a contract with the government to perform emergency services, then the rules change significantly. The provisions of the statute would still apply; however, a business that enters into a contract with the government would be considered an independent contractor. An independent contractor is an “agent” only if the government instructs the independent contractor on “what to do, not how to do it.” Therefore, when your business enters into a contract to help the government in an emergency situation, you must make sure the contract provides your business with control over the process and/or methods that it uses to do its work.

Of course, the Arizona Legislature can amend the statute to include immunity for any business entity that renders assistance during an emergency. If businesses were provided with clear protection under the statute, there would be no need for them to worry about being an “agent” of the government, and it would persuade more businesses to render assistance to the government in an emergency.