The Goldwater Institute is suing Tempe over the incentives it offered Sea Life U.S. Inc. to open the nation's second Sea Life Aquarium in Tempe in June.
The conservative think tank filed the lawsuit on Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court. The institute claims Tempe offered Sea Life, a subsidiary of the UK-based Merlin Entertainments Group, an illegal subsidy to attract the 26,000-square-foot aquarium to open at Arizona Mills Mall.
Tempe offered Sea Life a $218,000 retail development tax-incentive agreement. That incentives include:
• reimbursing the developer taxes it paid on the space it leases at the mall.
• rebating construction sales taxes.
• providing development fee waivers.
• waiving fees for planning, engineering and building-safety processing fees.
Andrew Ching, Tempe's city attorney said he had no comment on the lawsuit because he had yet to receive the claim.
Goldwater Institute officials said they based their suit on an earlier decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which ruled a $97.4 million subsidy that Phoenix offered to the developers of the CityNorth mall was illegal. An appeal of that ruling is awaiting a decision by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Mayor Hugh Hallman has spoken out against the CityNorth incentive.