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Murray Journal

Murray considers implementing park impact fee

Nov 15, 2021 03:06PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray City would collect a park impact fee on new development to maintain current levels of service. (Photo courtesy Murray City)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Murray City’s parks are being loved to their detriment, and with the recent spate of proposals for more multi-family housing, there might not be enough space in the parks. To keep up with replacing facilities and creating parks, Murray is considering adopting a park impact fee. The Murray City Council considered the motion at the Oct. 19 council meeting.

Park impact fees are not where someone pays admission to enter a park; it’s a one-time fee charged to developers to offset the capital costs of the public infrastructure associated with their new developments. Current Murray homeowners would not necessarily ever pay the fee unless they redeveloped their property for more housing units.

“The reason that we brought it up,” Murray Parks and Recreation Director Kim Sorensen explained, “is that we had adopted our park master plan in April of 2020. Along with the master plan, we asked the company that did the master plan to look at funding sources. One of the suggestions from the master plan was to look at a park impact fee for funding…to fund capital improvement projects after the plan was put together.”

Utah State Code requires a city or county to develop a formula by which the park impact fee will be based, such as cost per new housing unit. 

“Murray has never had a park impact fee. Most of the cities in Salt Lake County have a park impact fee. In fact, most of the cities in the state of Utah have a park impact fee,” Sorensen said.

Currently, Midvale and Murray are the only cities without an impact fee. Murray retained Zions Public Finance to prepare the impact fee plan. Aaron Montgomery, representing Zions, said, “Essentially, you have parks that are serving a certain number of people right now, and as new growth comes in, there’s less park to go around per person. Because now there are more people, these fees are collected…with the idea and the direction that they will be used to expand the existing facilities to maintain a level of service to offset the new growth to make sure facilities grow.”

In addition to parks, the fee takes into account recreation and aquatic facilities as well as trails. The current level of service for parks (land and improvements) is calculated by taking the total city investment in parks of $84,373,198 and dividing it by the existing population of 51,388, which results in a service level of $1,641.88 per person.

Currently, the city’s recreation facilities, such as the Murray Park Center and Murray Amphitheater, are at capacity. Zions figures that the current level of service is $283.87 per person, calculated by dividing the current cost of the recreation facilities, $14,587,500, by the 2021 population of 51,388. Therefore, Murray plans to expand its recreation facilities to maintain the existing/proposed level of service.

The level of service for trails is $83.51 per person, and for aquatic facilities it is $38.92 per person. 

“Impact fee money can’t be used for operation and maintenance, so we would need to get that from the general fund. But this money can be used to develop new parks and more opportunities for recreation,” Sorensen said.

Utah Code also regulates the fee’s application and the requirements on when the city must spend it.

“The state legislature says we have to account or come up with how you’re going to come up scientifically with a fee; you can’t just pull it out of the air,” Murray City Finance Director Brenda Moore said. “If we have more growth, it’s by unit. So, if somebody puts in 100 units, they will pay 100 times this….We’d have all the money all at once, but the caveat on this money is we have six years to spend it. And it has to be new facilities.”