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An Analysis of Parkland Dedication Ordinances in Texas

John L. Crompton

Abstract


Parkland dedication ordinances from 48 Texas cities were analyzed. All ordinances incorporated a land requirement and a fee in lieu alternative to it, but only 10 of them contained a provision for a park development fee. Most of the cities that imposed a fee in lieu and/or park development fee appeared to derive them arbitrarily rather than empirically, which is unlikely to be accepted by the courts. A recommended approach for calculating the level of service that meets the U.S. Supreme Court’s criterion of “rough proportionality” is provided. Other widespread limitations among the ordinances were a failure to: incorporate a time period for expending fees; give credit for private amenities within a development; extend ordinances beyond the level of neighborhood parks and to subdivisions in the extra territorial jurisdiction; and mandate periodic reviews of ordinances to update them. Reasons for the underutilization of parkland dedication ordinances identified in the analyses and strategies for rectifying this issue are addressed by posing three questions. First, what are the sources of the unrealized potential of parkland dedication ordinances? Three reasons relating to their myopic scope are identified: failure to extend ordinances beyond neighborhood parks to embrace community and regional parks; failure to extend ordinance requirements into cities’ extraterritorial jurisdictions; and inability to take advantage of reimbursement provision ordinances. A second source of their unrealized potential is the failure to set dedications at a level that covers all the costs associated with the acquisition and development of the additional park capacity required to meet the demands of new residents. The second question was, why is their potential not being realized? Two reasons are suggested: inertia, and vigorous opposition from the development community. The inertia stems from the ordinances not appearing on the agendas of many elected officials because no requirement is included that they be reviewed at regular intervals. Developers routinely oppose any expansions of these ordinances and they are a powerful political constituency in many communities. Rebuttals to the developers’ arguments are provided. The third question asks, why should elected officials warmly embrace parkland dedication? There are three reasons: it is fiscally conservative in that those who are benefitting from the service are paying for it; the alternatives are to raise taxes on existing residents or lower the community’s quality of life, neither of which are politically attractive; 71 and a recognition that parkland dedication requirements are not likely to lead to any resident being unable to afford a new home.?

Keywords


Parkland dedication, impact fees, exactions, Texas

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