Osceola developers scramble to file building permits before mobility fee spike

Margaritaville developer Encore Capital Management saved $1.1 million last week by filing building permits for the new Studio Movie Grill and Ford's Garage at SunsetWalk before Osceola County's new mobility fees take effect.

Encore was one of several developers to file building permits before March 9, the deadline set by the county's planning staff to process all commercial applications under the old fees.

County Commissioners approved a mobility fee update in late January which virtually doubles the fees across all categories. It takes effect May 1, and hombuilders still have until March 23 to file their building permits to avoid the higher fees.

Texas-based Studio Movie Grill will open a 12-screen, dine-in multiplex later this year with seating for 1,160 customers. The mobility fee, based on the number of seats, would have increased by $1 million if the developer had failed to meet the deadline.

Auto-themed restaurant Ford's Garage avoided a $105,000 increase in mobility fees by getting its building permit in last week. 

Elevation Development also filed the final building permit for its Parkview Retail Center, shaving more than $27,000 from the fees cost. That project, at U.S. 192 and Sherberth Road, includes a new CVS pharmacy, a two-story Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, Arby's and Burgerim. The final building is 4,531 square feet.

"We have a lot of activity, but we have not finalized a tenant yet," principal Owais Khanani told GrowthSpotter. "It was important to submit building plans to avoid the mobility fee increase."

Multifamily developers are facing even stiffer fees this year once the new school impact fees take effect in June. Osceola Commissioners are set to consider the school impact fee ordinance, which doubles fees for new apartment complexes, on March 19.

Investors Realty Chairman John Marling said the higher fees nearly derailed his $50 million Neo Square apartment project, which is on U.S. 192 right next to NeoCity. But he was able to get his permits in on March 5 for the 292-unit, Class A complex. 

"We're full-steam ahead on the project," he said. "It's going to be great for the area, because they need high-quality apartments near NeoCity. Not everyone who goes to work there is going to buy a house right away."

By filing before either fee increase takes effect, he saved $2.4 million. Marling and his partners hope to break ground in April and expect a 14- to 18-month construction period.

Washington, D.C.-based developer Kettler also got its permits in for a planned 379-unit apartment complex in Celebration, saving itself $2.8 million in mobility and school impact fees. 

Kettler also qualified for a 25 percent mixed-use discount on its mobility fee charge because the project is in Celebration.

Chris New, vice president of Fore Property Company, filed a Site Development Plan in mid-February for a 216-unit apartment complex in the Loop/Tupperware submarket. But he told GrowthSpotter the team wasn't able to file for building permits before Friday's deadline.

"We're still hoping to get them in before the school fees take effect," he said. "That's our goal."

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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