BISBEE â€” Some residents of Sunsites want to form a parks maintenance district with the existing golf course as the centerpiece of a proposed park and use a tax on property owners within the boundaries of the special district to fund maintenance and repair.
That was unexpected to Supervisor Richard Searle, who represents Sunsites on the board. He asked Chief Civil County Attorney Britt Hansonâ€™s opinion on whether or not the impact statement met the state statutes and was told it did not. â€śMy understanding was that it did. This will affect my recommendation for approval.â€ť
What went wrong? First, thereâ€™s the matter of back taxes from 2007 and 2008 totaling $60,198 on the golf course that was leased by local Lynn Christensen and a group of other golfers. The lease requires that the lessee pays the property taxes, said Tom Schelling, county special districts coordinator. Those tax bills are not included in the impact statement
Then thereâ€™s the problem of the current owner who could file bankruptcy, leaving the golf groupâ€™s lease to possible court intervention. And, thereâ€™s a due bill on back taxes of $47,785 from the previous owner that the new district would have to pay as well.
Another problem stems from state statutes that guide special districts. One statute requires agreement of a majority of property owners, at least 50 percent, within the district and the other requires the same, but from registered voters, continued Schelling.
The impact statement itself must include an estimate of expenditures for operations, personnel growth and enhancement to services for the first five years of operations. It does not, said Schelling.
Though the organizers of the Sunsites Park Maintenance District established the value of the land within the district at $8.893 million, Schelling noted that there were six to eight parcels not included in this figure. That would alter the estimated change in property taxes leading to a higher rate.
The Sunsites community appears to be almost split down the middle on the new district. At the meeting, those that filled out support/oppose forms showed that 90 present were in favor while 67 opposed it. Not everyone at the standing-room-only meeting filled out forms. The numbers do not include any remarks received by the supervisorsâ€™ office in opposition or support.
While many residents living near the golf course take advantage of its paths, ponds and wildlife whether golfers or not, others were concerned that even small tax increase to pay for the district maintenance would be impossible for those on fixed incomes already under the strain of just feeding themselves in these tough times.
Many see the golf course as a draw for the areaâ€™s economy, important to the rural enclave, said organizer Lynn Christensen.
Resident Tom Kelly said, â€śThereâ€™s only a couple of reasons to move to Arizona â€“ low taxes and warm weather. We need the golf course. Thereâ€™s nothing else to do here.â€ť
Others see it as subsidizing the golfers who use the course, as was stated by Allan Loy.
Jim Adelman said heâ€™d be in favor of it if it was more than a golf course; if it was a real park. â€śBut, it all seems very vague. Iâ€™m opposed to it.â€ť
Resident Nancy Ford believes the district is a power struggle between the haves and have-nots. â€śWhy beat a dead horse? Cancel the district, let the lenders foreclose on the golf course and resell it. Sunsites might become the latest Egypt.â€ť She said other options had been offered that might be more agreeable to more residents, yet those suggestions received no response.
The supervisors gave the organizers two weeks to amend the impact statement to include all the required information so citizens can make an informative decision about the park district.