Three Wake County senators filed a bill March 19 that would allow Morrisville to charge townhouse and apartment developers a fee to help the town acquire open space for parks and recreational uses.
Raleigh Republican Marilyn Avila, the Senate’s deputy majority leader, sponsored the bill along with Democrat Sens. Gale Adcock of Cary and Duane Hall of Raleigh.
The bill adds Morrisville to a law that has been on the books for Cary since July 2007. The law, which applies only to Cary, requires the funds to “be used only for the acquisition or development of recreation, park, or open space sites.”
Morrsiville Mayor Mark Stohlman said all developers currently pay such fees, known as “payments in lieu,” except for those building multifamily developments. Stohlman said the fee will level the playing field and help Morrisville raise its quality of life.
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Residents of townhouses and apartments may not have open space in their developments, so they go to local parks, which can put a strain on the town.
Cary has been collecting the fees from apartment and townhome developers since July 2012, Budget Director Karl Knapp said. The town took about five years to decide how to best implement the fees, he said.
Since then, Cary has taken in $6.3 million from all developments, including single family homes and multifamily areas.
“We’ve used some of the money for the Cary Tennis Park, the Cary Skate Park, and it’s also been used for several greenway projects,” Knapp said.
State law limits what the fee money can be used for – no salary payments or equipment purchases, for example – but Knapp said that hasn’t hampered the town’s efforts.
The funds may be combined with fees paid subdivision developers, the law says, to acquire or develop park space. The formula to collect the fee is based on a flat fee per unit.
Stohlman said he doesn’t anticipate much, if any, opposition from developers. While the fee is a short-term expense, the developers will likely see it as an investment in the long term, he said.
People who live in townhouses and apartments don’t have yards of their own to play or exercise in, so they go to local parks.
“They’re aware that it helps sell their properties, having all these great parks we have, greenways we have, and that everybody needs to pitch in,” Stohlman said.
With the bill’s bipartisan support, Stohlman said he expects it to pass.
When that happens, he said Morrisville would see benefits almost immediately.
“There are a couple apartment, multifamily things in the works,” he said.
The town also has plans to build or extend several greenways, in addition to building a new park in the northwest part of town.
This bill addresses one of four issues the Morrisville Town Council identified as priorities during the current legislative session.
The council also supports restoring historic tax credits and creating a method to replace lost business privilege tax revenues. Morrisville opposes two bills that would strip local governments of their ability to regulate the design and appearance of new development.
Those priorities also largely mirror Cary’s own legislative agenda.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran