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Cutting impact fees harms county's future growth prospects


Manatee County's Comprehensive Plan guides our growth policy and makes it clear that impact fees should be used "as a means of establishing and paying for future developments' proportionate cost of capital facilities ..." The recent decision to reduce transportation impact fees without data to support the decision, in my opinion, violates the policies of our Comp Plan.

See a list of builders and contractors, their impact fees and their reduced fees (PDF).

I feel it is my job, as your county commissioner, to disclose the issues about impact fees and the recent decision made to reduce them. This decision was not recommended by our County Administrator or the consultant hired to recommend impact fee amounts to the county. In fact, there was data in direct conflict with the recent decision to reduce and eliminate impact fees that will cost this county over $10 million.

TischlerBise, an impact fee consultant to the county, highlighted five reasons not to reduce or waive impact fees:

  1. Little evidence that eliminating or suspending impact fees encourages new growth.

  2. Concerns about equal treatment and a general question of fairness could result in refunding millions of dollars if faced with a legal challenge.

  3. Less impact fees reduce "economic stimulus" since there is less money for constructing needed roads to accommodate future growth.

  4. The need to pay for infrastructure is still there, so it will require subsidizing from property taxes or other revenues if we do not collect from developers.

  5. It reduces our competitive advantage if we do not build adequate infrastructure to accommodate new growth.

The original request to vote for a two-year suspension came from Dale Weidemiller and Pat Neal from Neal Communities at a board meeting on April 2. The issue was continued to April 7. At that meeting, Commissioner Donna Hayes submitted a motion to waive all impact fees, including commercial and residential, for a period of two years. Fortunately, the motion was never seconded. The board's final action reduced transportation impact fees by 50 percent, eliminated school impact fees, and also went back to all permits issued from Jan. 1, 2009.

The question I keep asking is, "How can we justify eliminating impact fees on permits already issued, if the reason is for economic stimulus or creating new jobs?" They do not need any stimulus if they already have a building permit. Some of these homes are already built and sold. Will the money the developer now saves on impact fees be refunded to these buyers? How would this be fair to all the people who paid their impact fees and now must compete against those who just had their impact fee eliminated?

The cost to the county is significant. The benefit to the developer of going back to January for permits already issued will cost the taxpayers over $2.6 million of waived impact fees. For the entire two years, it could be close to $10 million of lost impact fees.

Here are the top four who received their permits since January and the amounts waived:

  • Neal Communities: $471,159.84

  • Lennar Homes: $319,047.73

  • KB Homes, Orlando: $301,046.70

  • The Ryland Group Inc.: $301,858.82

As our impact fee consultant, Randy Young, advised us, "The economic downturn was not caused by impact fees, and changing impact fees will not solve the problem." This coincides with the residents' request not to reduce impact fees.

The facts are clear:

  • Recommendations by two impact fee consultants not to eliminate or reduce impact fees.

  • The County Administrator not recommending the action.

  • A growth policy that requires at least the impact fees we have today.

  • And knowing we do not have enough money today to pay for the existing needs of growth.

Yet the majority of the commission went against the experts, staff and the Comp Plan to give the developers over $2.6 million of money owed to the county today and close to $10 million for the next two years. In my opinion, this is not economic stimulus!


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