Cape to consider impact fee waiver
Cape Coral City Council will consider amending an ordinance that regulates road impact fees by offering a temporary waiver of change-of-use fees for existing non-residential buildings.
Councilmember Marty McClain is hoping the amendment will help to fill some of the thousands of square feet of empty commercial space throughout the city.
“We have an abundance of vacant space. We need to do what we can to assist the building owners and start helping them fill that space,” McClain said. “It’s not government’s job to create the employment in those areas, but we have to create the vehicle.”
If approved, the amendment to the ordinance would have a sunset date of Sept. 1, 2012.
A doctors office looking to move into a former commercial space would not have to pay the change- of -use fee, for example. And if that doctor were to relocate his office after the sunset date, another doctor’s office would be able to move into the space without having to pay another impact fee.
Christy Vogt from the city’s Economic Development Office said she hopes it will inspire businesses to choose Cape Coral.
“I think it will have an effect on the location they want to go in because impact fees figure into financial plans,” Vogt said, adding, “Hopefully, the amount of vacant commercial space will be a lot smaller (after the sunset date).”
The ordinance is similar to one recently put in place in Bonita Springs.
Bonita Springs City Manager Gary Price said there’s been a “small number” of businesses their ordinance has helped to get started in the month or so it’s been in place.
Price said he’s cautious of waiving any impact fees, as it might affect the long-range capital improvement plan. Price added, though, that since Bonita Springs City Council decided it wanted it, it is his job to make it work.
“The community still has the requirement to fix the roads. If you waive the fees, the roads still have to be fixed and meet concurrency,” Price said. “It’s going to have to be paid by somebody.”
McClain said the change-of-use waiver is an attempt to “test the waters” of a larger plan, which is waiving impact fees for new construction.
McClain said he realizes by itself the idea to waive impact fees is controversial, but the goal is to fill empty commercial space.
“It’s a very small step. However, it can have some significant positive impacts for those vacant centers,” McClain said.
Cape Coral Construction Industry Association Executive Director Heather Mazurkiewicz said the waiver of change of use fees is a “great first step”, but the organization wants to see impact fees waived completely.
“We believe taking that bold step will put the city on the map for economic development,” Mazurkiewicz said. “It would speak volumes to the private sector that we’re serious, we’re open for business, and we’re willing to take this step.”