Fountain Hills residents want their town to embrace its desert surroundings. But that emphasis on nature could carry a price tag.
On tonight’s Town Council meeting agenda is a decision on whether to require lowwater landscaping and plants at all new developments, both residential and commercial. Also up for debate is adoption of architectural design review guidelines.
And later this month, the council is scheduled to discuss measures designed to protect saguaro cactuses.
“We’re doing our best to take care of (the desert),” planning and zoning administrator Rich Turner said.
But more regulations mean more work for the town’s planning and zoning employees. Turner has suggested hiring a fourth code enforcement officer and converting a parttime planning technician position to a full time. Annual cost, if adopted: $104,710.
To avoid adding to the town’s looming budget crunch, Turner has a funding solution. The town would establish fees for landscape plan reviews ($420 each) and saguaro cactus permits ($90 each). Estimated annual revenue: $110,670.
The fees seem reasonable, said Judy Gausman, executive director of the Arizona Landscape Contractors’ Association.
She predicted developers simply would pass along the costs to buyers, and with million-dollar homes going up in Fountain Hills, “that’s not really an issue.”
But what tripped up Gausman was the proposed refundable deposit of $2,500 required by the town while officials review landscaping/irrigation plans.
“That’s very steep,” Gausman said. “And the landscaper will have to absorb that.”
The ordinance would give homeowners and contractors a list of approved vegetation closely resembling one provided by the Arizona Department of Water Resources, with the deletion of cottonwoods (which require too much water) and the addition of jacarandas (the official town tree).
There are a number of exceptions, such as allowing a private garden of 1,000 square feet or less, as long as it is in a backyard.
Mayor Wally Nichols said passing a low-water landscaping ordinance was a matter of “being good stewards of the resources that are available to us.”