The Carmel Board of Public Works on Nov. 15 tabled requests to waive more than $10 million park impact fees associated with five redevelopment projects to allow officials from Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation, the Carmel Redevelopment Commission and other local leaders to have more time to discuss areas of disagreement.
Several CCPR officials have recently expressed frustration in the BPW for approving a growing number of impact fee waivers that send funds to CRC projects rather than expansion of the park system. If the proposed impact fee waivers are approved, more than 81 percent of park impact fees since 2020 will have gone to the CRC, according to CCPR Director Michael Klitzing.
The evening before the BPW meeting, the CCPR board unanimously passed a resolution asking the BPW to table all impact fee decisions until after Jan. 1, when a new mayor and several new city councilors take office. The BPW, the only entity besides CCPR that can waive park impact fees, tabled the requests to its next meeting, set for Dec. 6.
At the CCPR meeting, park board attorney Brian Bosma said he believes the City of Carmel is violating state law by approving park impact fee waivers for developers and having them instead pay an equivalent amount of funds to the CRC.
At the BPW meeting, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, one of three BPW members, said he disagrees with Bosma’s interpretation of the law and that the current and previous city attorney confirmed the city’s handling of the waived fees is legal.
“All of these things have been vetted very carefully. The city is doing it properly,” Brainard said. “These are policy issues. When people accuse each other of doing things improperly and illegally, that bothers me. That is not the case in this situation, and the rancor that goes with it is totally inappropriate. This is about how best to operate the city, and it takes a group of people working together to do it.”
BPW member Lori Watson suggested tabling the waiver requests to provide additional time to clarify some of the legal questions and other concerns.
“If there are legal issues, let’s give this 2 and a half weeks to get all of those things out in the open and get them all settled,” Watson said. “Then let’s move forward with whatever information comes out in the next couple weeks.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jim Garretson, a member of the parks board, expressed concern about CCPR not receiving impact fee funds it expected to collect at the same time it is experiencing reductions in other funding sources.
Brainard acknowledged that CCPR is facing long-term funding challenges and said that sending all impact fees to CCPR would not be a “panacea” that will solve them. He suggested a voter-approved referendum, which would create a new tax to support parks, as a solution.
“This isn’t a pleasant thing to say, but if we want to continue to develop parks, we’re going to have to look at a dedicated fund for operations and capital expenditures,” he said. “That’s going to have to be done outside the existing city budget.”