City of Tempe Changes Sea Life Deal, But Goldwater Institute Says More Changes Might Need to be Made

Posted on December 11, 2009 | Type: In the News
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The Goldwater Institute claims that a lawsuit it filed against the city of Tempe has forced changes in the deal between the city and a British developer to build an aquarium at the Arizona Mills Mall.

The folks at Goldwater felt the city was giving unfair incentives to Sea Life, a division of U.K.-based Merlin Entertainment Group, to build the aquarium in Tempe.

Frankly, any company willing to build anything at the crime-riddled Arizona Mills Mall should be given a medal of bravery, not tax breaks.

The problem with the incentives for Sea Life is that other businesses don't get taxpayer money from the city when they set up shop, so why should a group of Brits profit on the taxpayers' dime. 

"The last thing taxpayers need in this economy is to subsidize a massive European business conglomerate," says Goldwater attorney Carrie Ann Sitren. "We wish the City had done things right in the first place. But if it takes a lawsuit to get the City to do the right thing, that's what we're here to do."

The city has since changed the terms of the deal with Sea Life to require the aquarium to offer discounts to Tempe residents and has hired a consultant to see if the deal can go through without the tax-breaks from the city.

Sitren says the Goldwater Institute is happy with the changes but that more information needs to be verified before she calls off the dogs.

While the aquarium is now forced to provide discounts -- as opposed to just giving the developer the option to give discounts, which was the case in the original deal -- Sitren wants to be able to put a dollar amount on those discounts to see if they equal the amount of money Sea Life will be saving with the tax incentives.

"We have some legal analysis left to do," she says. "If the discount is $7, we want to know what that means. It's still not clear what the value of the discounts will be."

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