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Coconino County OKs Williams Theme Park District

An architectural rendering of the Arizona State Railroad Museum, which is planned for a 21-acre parcel in Williams included in the theme park district approved by the Coconino County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Rendering courtesy of Arizona State Railroad Museum

By Emery Cowan for Arizona Daily Sun

The City of Williams has cleared the last legal hurdle to begin raising funds for theme park elements that the community has had on its wish list for more than a decade.

Coconino County Supervisors Jan. 6 approved the creation of a theme park district, the only one in the state, which will give the projects access to government-backed financing and will have the power to levy taxes to pay back borrowed money. All properties in the special district also will be exempt from property taxes.

After opposing the special district for years, four county supervisors gave the proposal their support, saying it allows the city to pursue its own path toward economic development.

Currently, the district encompasses two properties, a 475-acre lot on the north edge of Williams that is being eyed for a large theme park, and a 21-acre site in downtown that is slated to become the Arizona State Railroad Museum, an almost $20M project to celebrate the culture of Arizona’s railroads.

A fresh start?

The new setup for the special district puts more control in the hands of a district board, which will own the land and negotiate with developers on various projects, he said. The five-member board has representatives from the city of Williams, the City of Phoenix and the state.

The district would have the power to issue up to $1B in bonds to finance the project, would retain ownership of the project and would have the ability to impose a user tax of up to 9 percent on sales and income within the district to pay back that bond.

Legislation governing the theme park district has morphed over the years as well. Coconino County now has no involvement in the district and it was clarified that bonds issued by the district are obligations of the district itself and not part of the county’s debt.

Read more at Arizona Daily Sun