Builders and developers across Osceola County are rushing to get their building permits approved before the county's mobility fee ordinance goes into effect next week.
Any building permit approved before Oct. 1 will be exempt from the mobility fees, which add thousands of dollars to the cost of any new home or building in unincorporated Osceola. That deadline has forced several projects in development to accelerate the timeline, leading to near-record levels of permitting activity.
"A lot of commercial and residential builders are coming in trying to beat the deadline," Community Development Director Dave Tomek told GrowthSpotter. " A lot of them won't make it."
County Commissioners adopted the mobility fee ordinance in March to replace transportation impact fees, which the board suspended in 2011 and later repealed. That month the county issued more than 1,900 building permits. In August the county issued 1,840 new building permits.
"It's hard to get any permit through quickly," Tomek said. "For individual permits, we typically approve them within a week. But for a whole subdivision, you have to go through platting. It's much more involved. It's a longer process."
Brock Nicholas, Orlando Division president for Lennar Homes, said the mobility fee deadline wasn't a factor in the company's increased permitting activity. It coincided with the builder launching new phases in Champions Gate and Storey Lake - two of its best-selling communities - which necessitated the number of filings.
He said most builders don't object to paying mobility fees because they recognize the county's need to position itself for growth and because the building community was invited to participate in crafting the policy.
"Nobody likes to be charged more to do the same business, but I think they way they did it and implemented it was as fair as local government seems to be," he told GrowthSpotter.
Tomek expects permitting activity to continue at a rapid pace through the end of the year because all mobility fees are increasing by 25 percent in 2016. "For folks who don't meet the October deadline, there's still a three-month window for them to apply and be charged at the 75-percent rate.
So after Oct. 1, mobility fees will add $3,290 to the cost of a new single family home - that number goes up to $4,585 on Jan. 1. A new gas station will pay $6,189 per pump now, or $8,627 next year. A new hotel will pay $2,390 per room, or $3,332 next year.
The county will charge lower mobility fees for desirable uses. That's why any type of industry or distribution center would pay $1,452 per 1,000 square feet this year, while a grocery store would be charged $6,305 for the same square footage.
Assisted living homes, which meet the county's critical need for senior housing, pay just $816 per unit this year compared to $2,008 for a traditional town home or condominium.
The ordinance offers a 25-percent discount for any building located within a mixed use projects and a 50-percent discount for transit oriented development.
Senior Transportation Planner Mary Moskowitz said the goal is to incentivize builders to design more compact, walkable communities within in the county's urban growth boundary, causing less wear and tear on county roadways. "Those type of development patterns would result in reduction of trips," she said.