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Impact fee moratorium proposed

By Staff | Feb 9, 2013

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners will decide on Tuesday whether to waive impact fees, except fire and EMS, for two years.

Commissioner John Manning is proposing the moratorium, which entails suspending the collection of impact fees in the upper categories, such as roads, schools and parks, to try to help encourage construction in Lee.

Impact fees are levied on new construction, both residential and commercial, and change-of-use or remodeling to pay for infrastructure maintenance and expansion that are required due to the new growth.

“It’s really to give the industry a little bit of a boost,” he said. “They’re starting to gain some momentum, and I want to keep that momentum going.”

According to Manning, there was a total of 278 single-family home permits issued in Lee County in 2011. Last year, there were 556 permits pulled.

“They’ve doubled, but it’s a small number,” he said, adding that the permit numbers in the county pre-recession were triple what they are now.

The moratorium requires that the commission reconvenes after the first year to review any available data. At the time, commissioners can decide if they wish to continue waiving the impact fees or bring the ordinance back.

“Except for school impact fees, it only affects unincorporated Lee County,” Manning added of the moratorium.

Commissioner Frank Mann has voiced opposed to the moratorium.

“I could not possibly be more opposed to such a concept,” he said Friday. “I think it would be devastating to Lee County, its citizens and taxpayers.”

According to Mann, the county would lose $8 million over two years.

“Desperately needed dollars to fund road projects, including Burnt Store in Cape Coral,” he said, adding that impact fees fund right-of-way costs.

“The school system will lose upwards of $10 million,” Mann said.

He called the impact fees “a mechanism of growth paying for growth.”

“That’s new residents who move into Lee County paying for their impact on our infrastructure,” Mann said, adding that existing residents, otherwise, will have to shoulder the costs. “Local citizens are going to have to pay for it.”

Commissioner Tammy Hall also took issue with the moratorium.

“I don’t agree with the proposal. I think there’s lots of other options,” she said Friday.

Hall cited targeting specific owner-occupied buildings and waiving the impact fees and reducing the impact fees for lower-income housing as examples.

“There’s a whole caveat of a la carte options that we could be involved in,” she said.

Though Hall does support equal opportunity growth for businesses.

“I don’t think the suspension will accomplish what we’re hoping it will accomplish,” she said.

“I haven’t seen where anyone has thought out the unintended consequences,” Hall added.

She pointed out the impact of eventually retracting the wavier and existing properties competing against new construction without the advantage.

“I think you’re going to see a glut of inventory on the market,” Hall said.

The construction and real estate industries, like the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, have voiced support for the proposed moratorium.

“It is imperative that Lee County take every step available in the took kit to engage the building industry, increase housing development, which is paramount in our economic recovery, and lure companies and talent to our area,” Doreen Falcone, president of the Realtor Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach, wrote in a prepared statement released Friday.

“This measure is also a means to expand existing businesses and retain companies and industry sectors that were hit hard in the recession,” she stated.

Falcone noted that competing counties have waived fees with success.

Mann disagreed with the logic in terms of new home construction.

“The whole concept from the building industry is wrong – dead wrong,” he said. “People are already starting to build again even with the impact fees.”

When the fees were at their highest, the county was issuing permits.

“There’s no relation between impact fees and permit issuance,” Mann said.

Manning has previously tried to address the county’s impact fees.

He once made a motion to invoke a moratorium across the board and also made one to reduce the fees by 25 percent. Neither were supported.

The previous commission finally agreed to an impact feed study.

“The study came back and said you need to reduce fees minimally by 27 percent,” Manning said.

As a result, the board voted to cut impact fees in the areas of medical, construction and remodeling. They have been in place for about a year.