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County increases impact fees

By Staff | Mar 3, 2015

Despite pleas from residents that a failure to maximize impact fees would mean less money for new schools and roads, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to restore impact fees to 45 percent of what the county charged two years ago before temporarily reducing the levies on new construction by 80 percent.

The board’s previous decision to temporarily reduce the charges on new construction to 20 percent of the previous levy to boost the economy was set to expire March 13. Without board action, the reduction would have “sunsetted” and returned to the full rate.

Impact fee rates vary according to construction type.

At the full rate, the previous and full fee for a new single-family house, for example, was just under $13,000, the home’s computed “impact” share to pay for new roads, parks, schools and infrastructure needed for fire and rescue services.

The temporary 80 percent reduction reduced that fee to just under $3,000.

County staff had recommended restoring the fees to 85 percent of the full level, which would have been about $11,116, after some tweaking of the actual levies, for a new home. The approved restoration to 45 percent set that fee at about $5,840.

BOCC Chairman Brian Hamman was pleased with the feedback from the public, but supported the 45 percent level, which he said would continue to help both the economy and new home buyers.

“This was a win for middle-class families who want the opportunity to afford to build a home in Lee County. Letting the rates go back tom 100 percent would have meant a $10,000 increase to families who want to build a home here,” Hamman said. “I wasn’t ready to allow that to happen.”

Frank Mann cast the lone negative vote. Larry Kiker had the flu and left the dais to watch the public comments on TV from his office. He returned afterward to cast his vote.

John Manning wanted language added to the ordinance that would revisit impact fees every year depending on economic circumstances. That motion failed 3-2.

“The staff recommendation was 85 percent of the Duncan (impact fee) study and that did not happen. We’ll see what happens. That’s why I wanted to review it every year,” Manning said.

Hamman said reviewing the fees annually would create instability and uncertainty.

Most of those who spoke during the public hearing portion spoke in favor of higher impact fees, though there were many from the Lee Building Industry Association who stood and put on construction helmets in solidarity.

“Continue the reduction of fees so we can continue to survive and people can continue to pursue the dream of home ownership,” said Victor duPont, president of the BIA.

Others who were against the steep increase, including Kitty Green from Habitat for Humanity, also said it would affect low-income homebuyers.

Phil Douglas said he wanted a 100 percent restoration, adding he was weary of commissions “rewarding developers’ agendas to the detriment of residents.”

“The Duncan report says we need to increase to 85 percent. Residents will have to pay for the shortfall with overloaded schools and roads,” Douglas said.

Lee County School Board member Steve Teuber said the commissioners had a tough decision, with the need of a sustainable source to pay for growth.

“Impact fees are not an equitable source, not a reliable source, it’s a funding source,” Teuber said. “It’s one of many where we need a better solution and impact fees aren’t it.”

Brenda Thomas, executive vice president of the BIA, said she was pleased the commission took the initiative to pass the lower increase.

“It’s what our industry needs for sustainability and we’re very grateful. The economy is fragile and a 100 percent impact fee could have a negative effect on the industry,” Thomas said before echoing a statement Commissioner Larry Kiker made. “This is bigger than impact fees. We have a community growth issue we need to talk about.”