Developers and builders have two months to submit their plans to Osceola County if they want to avoid paying higher mobility fees after May 1.
Community Development Administrator Dave Tomek released a policy determination on Tuesday that guarantees the county would honor the current fee rate for any project with a commercial building permit filed by March 9. Residential permits filed by March 23 would also be exempt from the new mobility fee ordinance.
"We're giving them a guarantee," Tomek told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday. "We're telling them if you file by these dates, we'll make sure you get your permits before the new fees go into effect."
Meeting those deadlines will help builders avoid a huge cost spike, since the proposed ordinance would raise the fee for single-family homes from the current $4,585 to $8,688. The fees for multifamily projects would go from $3,203 per unit to $6,070. Mobility fees for commercial buildings, restaurants, medical offices and hotels also would nearly double.
Another incentive to apply before the March deadline is that under the current ordinance, mobility fees are collected when the building receives a Certificate of Occupancy, or CO. After May 1, the county would require payment at the building permit stage, which means developers and their investors have to carry those costs for a year or more.
The mobility fee increase would coincide with a proposed school impact fee increase for single-family homes and apartments. The School Board of Osceola County is scheduled to vote Jan. 16 on an ordinance that nearly doubles the fees for new apartments. The impact fee for single-family homes would go up 16 percent to $11,823 -- making it the highest in the state.
If the school approves the impact fee ordinance, it would go to the Board of County Commissioners for adoption in February and take effect in early May.
Tomek said county staff would work with developers to help them get their approvals on time, which includes allowing them to file Site Development Plans and building permits concurrently.
"If there's a way to help, we always do," he said. "Folks come in and tell us their situation, and we'll sit down and figure out a way to help them."
The county saw a huge spike in building permit applications before the mobility fee ordinance initially took effect in October 2015. But Tomek said he's not expecting that kind of activity this time.
"I don't think it can get any busier than it is now," he said. "Back in 2015, we were going from no fee to a fee. I don't see it as a huge jump this time."
Homebuilders might accelerate some permit activities, but commercial projects, hotels and apartment complexes tend to be more complicated, he said. "Those are tougher projects to get done in a month or two."
Kettler project manager Kevin Peterkin said the company is finishing up its plans for a 379-unit apartment complex on Celebration Boulevard and awaiting final approval from Disney for the Art Deco-inspired design. If they don't make the March 9 deadline, the new fees would rise by more than $8,000 per unit, adding $3 million to the cost of the project.
"The school impact fee is the bigger concern because that's nearly $6,000 per unit," Peterkin said. "We'll try to get our plans in as soon as possible to mitigate that."