BY JACK SHORT – Charlotte County Commissioners voted to adopt impact fees at 40 perccent of the rate recommended by technical studies after a public hearing on April 14.
Only one member of the public spoke at the meeting in opposition to the reduction, but approximately ten spoke in favor of plans ranging from the adopted 40 percent rate to the suggestion that all impact fees should be abolished. Everyone who spoke in favor of the adoption was an industry member.
The fee schedule before the board to be voted on after the public hearing Tuesday, which was part of the regular Board of County Commissioners’ meeting, called for an adoption of transportation impact fees at 50 percent of the recommended value and non-transportation fees at 33 percent of the recommended value. That plan would have taken effect in July and remained for one year.
Industry representatives present, such as Suzanne Graham of the Charlotte Desoto Building Industry Association, a non-profit advocacy group for the industry and who “believe(s) in the free enterprise system,” suggested that the BCC adopt a two-year rate, with no automatic renewal, with fees 25 percent less than Sarasota and Lee counties,’ and that they compromise and adopt rates at 40 percent of those recommended.
She said that the county needs a diverse tax base, and that “… impact fees alone won’t do it.”
The county had suspended all non-transportation impact fees in 2012 and held that suspension over each year since.
Impact fees, authorized by Florida Statutes 163.31801, are used to “fund the infrastructure necessitated by new growth.” Commissioners made no reference to alternative sources for funding that infrastructure at the most recent meeting and public hearing when they voted on the adoption.
Beth Canton of Canton Homes and Julie Mathis, executive director of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce also attended and spoke in favor of reduced fees for builders.
Nearly everyone who spoke seemed to agree that adopting the 40 percent rates would put Charlotte County on competitive footing with Lee and Sarasota Counties.
Lee county recently adopted similarly reduced impact fees (at 45 percent of recommended rates) for three years.
Commissioner Tricia Duffy said, “We need to have competitive, reasonable, impact fees.”
Commissioner Ken Doherty suggested that the most significant growth would occur because of residential, single-family construction, not commercial construction. He made the motion that they adopt the fee schedule before them with the modifications that rates would be set at 40 percent across all categories and locked in for two years.
Chairman Bill Truex, who is also owner of and president of Truex Preferred Construction, according to the BCC’s website, seconded Doherty’s motion, after which the board voted unanimously to approve it, effective in July.
A second public hearing was then held to approve an ordinance that would hold the current fee suspension until July when the new fee schedule would become effective. No one came forward to speak at that meeting and the motion was approved unanimously without discussion.
Charlotte County had completed an economic impact estimate for the suspension extension which concluded that, while the extension would assist developers and could increase demand for new construction, it “(might) also affect Charlotte County’s ability to compete for new businesses and residents as new development often locates in areas offering attractive public amenities …”
The report also stated that impact fee reductions may transfer costs of development capacity needs from the developer to the public. The trade-off, according to the report, may be an increase in jobs from any new construction, and an increase in specialty and retail services for residents.