Tempe Town Toilet,
Tempe Town Lake
is mostly used to put on concerts to raise money for the royal rulers of Tempe.
The concerts keep people awake a night and can be heard as far north as Roosevelt in Scottsdale.
The concerts cause huge traffic and parking jams in the downtown area.
If a private citizen tried to build it and operate it they would never have gotten the zoning permits because of the problems the Town Toilet causes.
The original rubber damns were supposed to last 30 years and came with a "verbal guarantee" which wasn't worth the air it was spoken on, when the damns started to fail after 10 years, which means the taxpayers will have to pay to have them replaced.
Tempe spends more to operate Tempe Town Toilet or Tempe Town Lake as the royal rulers of Tempe call it then it spends on all it's other parks combined.
The royal rulers of Tempe love to say that more people visit Tempe Town Toilet then visit the Grand Canyon. That is a misleading marketing statement. People don't visit the Town Toilet because it's the best park in the world, people visit the Town Toilet because of the concerts the city of Tempe puts on.
Tempe also hosts the Ironman Marathon and other marathons in the Town Toilet. For these marathons they close down streets in Tempe and south Scottsdale again causing huge traffic jams and parking problems in Tempe.
Tempe residents weigh Town Lake's cost, potential
By Dianna M. Náñez The Republic | azcentral.com Thu Nov 1, 2012 11:07 PM
Tempe Town Lake, a massive project that turned the barren Salt River bed into a Valley recreational draw, is immersed in an intensifying debate over who should pay the millions of dollars needed to operate it, maintain it and build a new dam.
Tempe officials often have described the city’s push more than a decade ago to build the 2 1/2-mile-long lake in the desert as a calculated financial investment toward economic development. Some critics, though, called it too much of a high-stakes gamble with taxpayer dollars.
Now, because of the added cost of replacing the dam earlier than expected after its dramatic collapse in 2010, the question of paying for the landmark lake is playing a prominent role in city politics again ahead of next week’s Election Day bond vote. Some critics complain that money earmarked for parks is being swallowed by lake costs that should be paid by developers and waterfront businesses rather than taxpayers.
The economic payoff hinged on the city creating a major commercial, retail and residential district on prime lakeshore property near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and downtown Tempe.
In the 13 years since the man-made lake was first filled, though, private development still only covers about 20 percent of operation and maintenance costs, well below the 60 percent envisioned in the original plan.
Tempe taxpayers have paid most of the $2 million to $3 million annual costs for operations and maintenance as well as the $44.8 million in original construction costs. Tempe paid for the lake with $40.5 million in bond debt, which it refinanced this year at a lower interest rate.
About $6.6 million remains to be paid by 2023, by which time the city will have paid $19.3 million in interest and fees.
Private investment spurred construction of about 24 acres of condos, high-rise office and commercial space around the lake. Town Lake supporters blame the recession for slower-than-expected development.
This year amid a recovering economy, investors submitted proposals for a third office tower and two apartment complexes. Still, the 200-acre development plan remains short of expectations.
Some residents are concerned that no time line has been set to shift the majority of the annual operating costs to private developers through special-district assessment fees, and they have called for a thorough audit.
Tempe’s goal is for private development on 120 acres to generate assessment fees covering 60 percent of annual operations costs.
As the city waits for an economic rebound to spark more development, critics argue that leaders are not doing enough to relieve the burden on taxpayers and that they have turned aside innovative ideas that could have increased revenue. They also say they are not charging event organizers enough to use the lake.
“As far as I am concerned, the lake can go. It’s a big albatross,” said Art Jacobs, a longtime Tempe resident who regularly questions city finances. “Tempe taxpayers fund about $2 (million) or $3 million a year, while the people who benefit from it are the property owners around the lake.”
Tuesday’s general-election ballot in Tempe includes a $10.5 million bond for parks and sports-facility renovations. City officials have said that unless Tempe finds another revenue source, that bond will be applied toward a $37.4 million replacement of the lake’s original rubber dam that failed in 2010. A temporary dam has been in place since.
The city’s proposed funding of the new dam includes not only the bond but also $4 million previously set aside for the project and $22.9 million from a 2008 bond that voters approved for neighborhood-parks improvements.
Fiscally conservative critics are calling for an independent audit of the lake’s expenses and revenue and for a series of deadlines to move more of the costs to developers.
A.J. LaFaro, a former Republican district chairman now seeking the Maricopa County Republican Committee chairmanship, was an early critic of Town Lake and says an audit is overdue.
“I absolutely believe that an independent audit should be conducted with regards to the entire life of the Tempe Town Lake, the building of the dams,” he said. “It’s extremely important that we evaluate what’s happened up to this point,” so a plan can be created to turn it into a self-sufficient enterprise.
Tempe resident Bill Butler, who lives near the lake and has attended public meetings on the dam-replacement plan, laments that some private developers have gone bankrupt or failed to pay their assessments, leaving taxpayers to cover the majority of lake operations.
Butler and Jacobs said Tempe has asked taxpayers to carry a greater share of the costs to preserve community services during the recession. They believe the city should encourage private developers and businesses who benefit from the lake to pay more of the costs to maintain and run it.
At recent council budget meetings, a few Tempe residents complained about the city issuing more bond debt and raising property-tax rates amid steep declines in property value. One resident railed against the city spending $5 million to restore employee salaries to 2008-09 levels when the city had little savings for the dam project.
Revamping the financial plan for Town Lake became an election issue when council candidate Dick Foreman and mayoral candidate Michael Monti hosted a forum in which they argued that city leaders were failing to generate ideas to boost funding for the lake and should be held accountable.
Some critics also accused the city of misleading taxpayers by using vague language for the bond ballot and not making it clear that the money for the parks could end up going to the new dam.
Officials said the ballot was worded broadly to allow Tempe to use the bonding capacity on parks if the city is able to secure other funds such as land sales to pay for the dam.
Tempe council members defend the financial costs of having Town Lake by pointing to the money it generates for the city.
It draws an estimated 2.7 million visitors a year from around the Valley, according to estimates from city officials, who say it is second only to the Grand Canyon as Arizona’s most-visited recreational attraction.
Tempe tourism and business analysts have described the lake as a long-term investment that spurs sales-tax revenue, boat-permit fees and will eventually secure the targeted assessment fees from private developers.
A recent Tempe financial analysis says the lake’s economic benefit totals about a half-billion dollars. Without the lake, Mayor Mark Mitchell said, Arizona would not host the annual Ironman Arizona triathlon, which attracts tens of thousands of competitors and spectators who spend money at Tempe hotels, restaurants and shops.
“This is a tremendous asset for our community,” he said. “Right now, nearly 5 million people have attended events at Tempe Town Lake since it opened. It’s the second-biggest attraction in the state of Arizona. That has a positive net impact to our community.”
City officials blame the recession for derailing several hotel, retail and other commercial-development proposals. Some projects failed to secure financing for construction, while many landowners fell behind on lake-assessment fees.
An Arizona Republic public-records request shows that of the 238 property owners, which includes individual condo owners, 68 properties have liens for assessment fees totaling $43,545.
But to focus on the current cost to Tempe taxpayers, without looking at the tangible and intangible benefits, is short-sighted, supporters say.
The city completed a financial analysis of the lake’s economic impact in September. Tempe puts its investment in the lake from 1985 through this June at $349.8 million. Of that, $81.5 million was paid by non-city funding sources, such as grants. Those costs include operational expenses and funding for Tempe Beach Park, the lake marina and other amenities.
The city tallied a total return on investment at $825.9 million for a $557.5 million net return after deducting the $268.3 million that Tempe has invested.
Impact on Tempe
Town Lake detractors and supporters agree the project has changed the face of Tempe, even if the reality falls short of what was envisioned. Several parks and miles of pedestrian and bike paths line the lake. Boating and rowing attract water-sports enthusiasts from across the Valley. The lake’s marina has been built, but city proposals for a boathouse and welcome center have not materialized. One hotel was built along the shore, but proposed luxury hotels also failed to be built.
Three lakeside condominium complexes developed prior to the recession are home to thousands who spend money in downtown Tempe, generating sales taxes that support city services.
Luxury-office space is thriving, including Hayden Ferry Lakeside, a high-rise complex that has attracted technology and finance businesses, and a third tower that would add more high-end office space is expected to be built soon.
But some of the developments ran into financial difficulties that cost the city millions in loans and thousands in assessment fees.
The city had hoped to beef up sales-tax revenue by attracting more lakefront shopping and restaurants, but financing for proposed real-estate projects froze during the economic crash.
This year, however, in what city officials call a sign of a turnaround, developers submitted plans to build two apartments. But critics argued that the land had been reserved for luxury condos and that the city was settling for substandard development on prime land.
Recently, land owned by Arizona State University along the southern shore was targeted for a stadium district, although ASU officials have said the project still is years away. Tempe officials have said the development would energize that stretch of undeveloped shoreline and attract investors.
A growing number of proponents and opponents have noted that the city’s analysis of the lake’s economic impact does not address current financing problems, and they want the city to be more innovative about boosting funding.
Some residents who use the lake for exercise have encouraged the city to consider asking Valley residents to pay for the privilege, just as Maricopa County charges for park usage.
Foreman, a utilities lobbyist who lives in a lakeside condo and who ran for Tempe City Council, said Tempe must acknowledge that it needs a new financing plan to cover the lake’s costs. He suggested the city follow through on an early promise that the lake would offer swimming and a recreational beach.
He said swimming would draw thousands more who would gladly pay a nominal fee to sun on the sandy beach. He said the beach could also become a catalyst for more innovative lake uses.
City officials have been cool to the idea, saying it would cost too much to treat the lake water to make it safe for swimming. Town Lake has had long-standing problems with water quality and must test it regularly, treat it with chemicals and rent costly pumps to divert it to the dry river bed prior to special events that host swimming.
Joe Henkel, a runner who recently moved to Tempe from Phoenix primarily because of the lake’s unparalleled scenic setting for exercise, said he will vote for the bond, adding that despite the economic downturn, the lake is an asset that can be leveraged to raise more revenue.
Henkel said the city should be booking significantly more lake events and programming — food shows, concerts, water sports, theater — and putting that revenue toward lake upkeep and the new dam until private development rebounds.
Mitchell said the city is looking into increasing funding from event fees at the lake and a cost-benefit review of programming by a downtown business group will be presented to the council by next June.
Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe Cesspool for the Arts