Leaders swimming in decision

Pool requirements for developers getting closer look

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Surprise leaders are swimming in decisions about what to do about the pools in the community.

The city is growing, but leaders are just now treading water on how to keep pace with the number of pools to keep residents cool.

City planner Robert Kuhfuss recently gave presentations to the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission after some leaders had noticed that the city had been awarding more exemptions to requirements for community pools in most master-planned neighborhoods.

The current city code provision calls for a developer to build a community pool if its neighborhood has at least 60 dwellings. But with zoning codes that don’t exactly fully fit the neighborhoods that come in, the pool issue becomes murky.

“Why can’t we just follow the code?” District 4 Councilman Ken Remley asked. “It’s viewed like we are selling out to the developer.”

Mr. Kuhfuss said the dissolving of plans for the proposed Magnolia community near Paradise Honors School set off in motion the pool issue. Because what was supposed to be Magnolia became several other neighborhoods instead, those developers were successful in getting projects approved with the pool waiver approved.

But planners and the Council isn’t feeling great about it, so they asked Mr. Kuhfuss for a review of the city’s pool situation.

Mr. Kuhfuss said it’s also a philosophical question the city should address. Among them, should yards be required to be big enough for residents to put in their own home pools.

As the economy has improved, it seems that’s what more Surprise residents are choosing to do. The city approved more than 600 pool permits in each of the last two fiscal years, which was a big jump from fiscal year 2017.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is also eying another community-wide pool after reporting 28 days of overflow crowds at the Surprise Aquatic Center this summer. However, that could set the city back about $7 to $10 million.

There is also some confusion about the exact difference between an aquatic center and a community pool. That’s important because by law developers’ impact fees can’t be used to construct an aquatic center.

However, Mr. Kuhfuss was able to compile some valuable information about current Surprise pools for councilmembers and commissioners.

Marley Park serves 1,530 homes with two community pools with another one proposed.

The community runs a pool budget of $83,000 annually, which comes out to about $54 per month per homeowner.

The new Homestead at Marley Park has a new pool to serve 900 lots over 224 acres. It cost the developers $800,000 to build, which amounts to about $15 in HOA dues for residents.

Planning and Zoning Chairman Matthew Keating noted Meritage was able to keep home prices low despite “one of the nicest [pool amenities] I’ve seen.”

“If Meritage can do it why can’t the others do it?” Mr. Keating asked.

Among other communities in Surprise with community pools, Fulton Homes’s Escalante neighborhood has one serving 1,005 homes.

In Ashton Ranch, residents of the 1,217 homes have three community pools to choose from.

The Desert Oasis community in north Surprise includes one pool for 857 homes.

Sun City Grand features four pools and three spas for its 10,020 homes. Its annual pool assessment is $710,000, which amounts to about $71 per month for each homeowner.

City Councilman Chris Judd asked if there was any legal way the city can create a plan for multiple developers to chip in for community pools.

“If each one of those guys were able to put a little bit into the pot, it wouldn’t have been a question of who’s going to pay for it, it would have been a question of what people’s share,” Mr. Judd said.

Planner Lloyd Abrams said developer impact fees couldn’t be collected if the pool is built first.

Mr. Remley said it’s important the city gets the pools issue right no matter what it decides.

“From the standpoint of the quality of neighborhoods we have going forward in Surprise, if we insist that there be a certain level of amenitites then that’s going to make us a more desirable community to live in,” Mr. Remley said.

Editor’s note: Jason Stone can be reached at 623-445-2805, on email at jstone@newszap.com or on Twitter at @thestonecave. Visit yourvalley.net.

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