Osceola considers school impact hikes while exempting vacation homes

Osceola County's School Board has opted to wait until Jan. 16 to vote on a new school impact fee ordinance to recommend to county commissioners for 2018.

The board held a workshop on Tuesday to review the changes, which will have a significant impact on new development throughout the county. Vacation home developments would see enormous savings, while single-family homes would be charged 16 percent more than the current impact fee. 

That $11,823 impact fee for new homes would be the highest in the state. Seminole County's calculated fee is $12,322, but the county only collects $5,000 per home.

New multifamily developments would be hit hardest under the staff recommendation. Their fees would nearly double from $6,088 per unit to $11,362. Multifamily developers are also facing a potential doubling of mobility fees in 2018, and the combination of the two could kill some projects that are currently in permitting.

"I would vote against this tonight if it came before me," School Board member Tim Weisheyer said at the end of the workshop. "I want to think through this language."

Superintendent Debra Pace recommended splitting the housing types into five categories, which results in a smaller increase for townhomes and a fee reduction for condos. Those are offset by higher fees on single-family homes and apartments.

School board members were provided with three versions of the new impact fee ordinance that expands the "vacation villa" impact fee exemption, similar to the exemption for age-restricted communities. Other short-term rental communities would be eligible for a reduced impact fee.

Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher and District Planning Director Rhonda Blake also drafted language to establish guidelines for how a developer could apply for the impact fee waiver or reduced rate.

"We're trying to write a definition for something that doesn't exist in the statute," Blake said. 

The developer would be required to create deed restrictions for 30 years that would prohibit the units from being occupied by anyone for more than 30 days. The community would have to have professional management and enhanced amenities, while also lacking certain residential services such as mail delivery and county garbage collection.

In addition, each unit would be required to file a vacation rental business tax with the county. The property would not be eligible for homestead exemption for 30 years. 

Finally, if any student under the age of 19 registers for school and lists his address as a vacation villa or home, the owner or HOA would be required to pay the full mobility fee for that unit within 60 days. 

Hector Lizasuain, government relations director for Magic Development, said the "vacation villa" category is designed for projects like Magic Village, which are true resorts. 

"Our deed restrictions are even tougher than the ones they proposed," Lizasuain said. 

The reduced short-term rental rate would be available in other communities that may include a mix of vacation homes and permanent residents, such as Reunion Resort. In those cases, the developer or builder would need to apply for the reduced impact fee prior to obtain a certificate of occupancy. 

Although the district's consultant used data from the Westside Short-Term Rental Overlay District to develop the fee structure, Pace told board members she would not recommend applying the lower rate to all new development in that geographic area. She said the exemption or reduced rate should be available anywhere in the county, if a project meets the criteria. 

"We know there is residential development going on in the overlay area," she said. "Celebration Island (Village) is a perfect example. That’s coming to us in a couple of years and we know it’s going to be feeding us students."

Sarah Graber, chief financial officer for Osceola County Schools, said the district could reassess the data on an annual basis, instead of every three years. 

If the school board approves the new ordinance on Jan. 16 it would then go to the Board of County Commissioners, which has the final say on impact fees. 

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