A study commissioned by the Lake County Commission shows that the fees it charges for the impact of new development on county roads are lower than what is needed to meet the cost of growth. Moreover, in some areas of the county, the fees are considerably lower than what consultants recommend.
While the Commission heard a presentation on April 26 on a new road impact fee study, it did not discuss increasing the fees for developers but simply accepted the study. The county attorney will come back at a later date with an ordinance including the new fee schedule, which the Commission can accept or modify.
The fees were last studied in 2019 and, under law, must be studied every few years to reflect the most recent data available on what the county should charge developers for the impact on county roads.
Impact fees are charged based on the proportion of vehicle miles of travel each new development unit is expected to consume.
The draft report, submitted by Nilgun Kamp of Benesch, formerly Tindale Oliver, includes calculated road impact fees compared to those charged to developers today.
The study shows that a new calculated impact fee for a 1,500-2,499 square-foot single-family home should be a maximum of $5,163 in the county’s South and NE/Wekiva District, as opposed to the $2,706 it now charges. That same new home in the North & Central District is charged $1,000 today, as opposed to the $5,163. Today’s fees represent a 30-74% discount from what consultants recommended in 2019.
According to the study, the transportation impact fees for a hotel/motel in the North & Central District should be $1,926, as opposed to the $416 the county imposes.
While the single-family home impact fee for Lake County for a 2,000 square-foot house 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.
Whether or not the county commission will consider increasing the impact fees remains to be seen.
“They just accepted the study, and that is all that is really needed to be done, so they may or may not increase the fees,” said Assistant County Manager Fred Schneider. “All they decided to do was to hear and accept the study.”
Lee Steinhauer, government and legal affairs director for the Greater Orlando Builder’s Association, said Lake County’s fees are less than surrounding counties, but each county has different circumstances.
“It is not apples to apples, because there are lots of different factors,” Steinhauer said. “I would say significantly increasing any fee, particularly in the current environment where inflation is running at all-time highs and housing costs that are very high, it is very difficult as an industry to be able to provide a more affordable product based on the massive increases we are facing. ”That includes materials, lumber and appliances.”
“Any significant increase coming from government is not going to help,” he said. “That is certainly something the commission should consider in their analysis.”
A new law passed by the Florida Legislature last year requires phasing of impact fee increases, he said and if the county commission does decide to raise the impact fees, they cannot raise them more than 50% within a four-year period.
Schneider said that by accepting the study, the Commission met its statutory requirement. “Typically, it is not taxpayers who make up the difference because property taxes have historically not been used to build roads in Lake County. What is used is the impact fees, developers’ contributions and public-private partnerships, any kind of Florida DOT (Department of Transportation) funding and either state or federal grants.”
In the end, the board determines the impact fees, Schneider said. “Today’s fees were discounted 70% at adoption, a lot lower than the calculated fees. This is a starting point of 100%. The board has typically charged less for road impact fees.”
In a nutshell, he said, if the county has a road, every lane mile of road can handle so much traffic, then the road gets overwhelmed.
“The capacity added to the roadway by each development is how much it consumes” with new growth. “A 7-Eleven consumes more capacity than a single-family home.”
According to the impact fee study, Lake County ranks 17th out of Florida’s 67 counties in population. Looking at population growth, it ranks eighth, with a projected average growth rate of 1.26% per year through 2045. Lake County is 14th in absolute growth, with 141,000 new residents expected through 2045.