Lake County Commissioners directed staff July 26 to set a public hearing to consider increasing impact fees by 95% of the allowed 50% increase over four years, in light of all the new development the county is experiencing. The hearing date has not yet been set.
Only one commissioner, Josh Blake, spoke out against raising the fees, which pay for new roads, turn signals, lanes, added fire protection, schools and more that become necessary due to new development. Builders pay the fees, which are often passed on to property purchasers. Blake said it is a bad time to ask people to fork over more money to the government.
The county received a draft report in April submitted by Nilgun Kamp of Benesch, formerly Tindale Oliver, which includes calculated road impact fees compared to those charged to developers today. The Lake County School District will initiate a separate impact fee study later this year.
While the transportation impact fee for a 2,000-square-foot house in Lake County is calculated at $5,163, Orange County’s is calculated at $10,138 in suburban areas and $8,218 in urban areas. The impact fee is calculated at $11,586 in rural areas.
Osceola County, at 100% of the calculated fee, charges $9,999 in urban areas and $15,941 in rural areas.
Lake Commissioners have typically charged a discounted rate for transportation impact fees. New development taking place in the South and NE Wekiva Districts have paid 70% of the full calculated rate. In the North Central and Central Districts, the county charges just 26% of the full rate. The Benesch study recommends keeping the four districts but does not address whether the county should continue charging different rates based on district.
A new law passed by the Florida Legislature last year requires phasing of impact fee increases, and if the county commission does decide to raise the impact fees, they cannot raise them more than 50% within a four-year period.
Commissioners, in discussing the potential impact fee increases, said it is not taxpayers who make up the difference from new construction, but the developers. Construction for new roads does not come from the county’s general fund, though road maintenance costs do.
Under the 95% recommendation, the total combined impact fees for roads, libraries, parks and fire protection for a 2,000-square-foot single-family home in the South or NE Wekiva District would increase from $12,536 to $14,163 — a difference of $1,627. Since no changes are being recommended to the county’s $9,027 school impact fee, the proposed hike amounts to a 13% total increase.
Commission Chair Sean Parks said he has not heard a lot of pushback on the fee increases, especially for transportation and parks and recreation.
Increasing impact fees is a way to solve a problem, said Commissioner Douglas Shields. “We want to build the infrastructure the new people coming in will use.” It is getting some support from the business community, he said. “If you are stuck in traffic, it impacts everyone. We are wise to push this up as much as we can. This is our opportunity to get ahead of the problem and to get the roads where they need to be.”
Commissioner Leslie Campione noted that the county does have a waiver for those seeking in-fill development – building or rebuilding in an already built-out area – that can help in instances where a developer is working to build affordable housing. “It is mostly large homebuilders coming in and adding a ton of traffic on the roads,” she said. “We can’t keep up if it is not included in the impact fees.” But the in-fill waivers can help keep some of the impact fee cost costs down for affordable housing, she said.
The full calculation for adjusting the impact fees would require the commission to go through a justification analysis. Commissioners agreed to look at two possibilities – the maximum increase calculated in the study and the maximum increase allowed by HB 377.
Parks said he would like to see the increases implemented in all categories, including fire rescue, libraries, parks and recreation, transportation and schools.