Orange County Commissioners are once again weighing the decision to increase fees on new development in the fast-growing locality — potentially piling on top of another recent hike in impact fees for parks, fire stations and deputy gear.
Commissioners participated in their first workshop session Tuesday to discuss updating transportation fees intended to help make new development pitch in for road-related services, such as expanding roads and intersections.
A study to update the county's school impact fees is also underway, with the first set of recommendations expected in March.
According to a draft proposal obtained by GrowthSpotter, transportation consultant Tindale Oliver recommends more than doubling the cost for transportation fees in certain areas to add capacity to serve new development.
The proposal also suggests doing away with previous designated Alternative Mobility Areas, which were established to encourage infill and redevelopment in certain sectors by lowering transportation impact fees.
To replace the AMAs, the update to the study presents separate fee variation options that would expand the urban areas and create suburban and rural assessment areas.
"There has to be a rational nexus," Renzo Nastasi, Orange County's transportation planning manager, said."In other words, we can't charge somebody in east Orange County their impacts in west Orange County."
Pasco County, which created mobility fees, was the first to introduce a different rate structure based on urbanization. Other counties, such as Lake, charge higher impact fees in the southern third of the county where there's more intense development.
Orange County’s transportation impact fees are reviewed at least once every five years, and was last updated in 2012 at a discounted rate.
At the time, the county staff recommended raising transportation impacts fees by 100 percent, however the board settled on adopting a 42 percent increase and later increased the fee to 56 percent in late 2014.
The most recent study also recommends a 100 percent increase across all categories of development, meaning the transportation fee for a single-family home would jump from $3,898 to potentially $11,257, depending on where the home is located.
If the board were to adopt the rate at 100 percent the transportation impact fee for a 3,000-square-foot fast food restaurant with a drive-thru in a suburban zone would jump from up to $110,427 per development to $268,059. A convenience store with gas pumps would increase from $20,411 per 1,000 square feet to up to $47,012.
The numbers in the draft ordinance are a staff recommendation, but commissioners could approve a more moderate increase.
A second work session is scheduled for March.
The Greater Orlando Builders Association recently challenged the methodology of studies used in the county's draft ordinance.
Raleigh Steinhaugher, government affairs director for GOBA, said the 2017 study referenced in the presentation proposed "a very high increase."
“New development understands the need for roadway improvement and infrastructure improvement and it certainly wants to pay their part," he said. "We just don't want to be held accountable for deficiencies in the past. New growth is not responsible for resuscitating years and years of deficiencies.”
Jon Weiss, director of the Community, Environmental and Development Services Department, said the approach done by the county’s consultants “look only at the cost to add capacity to serve new development,” and are not looking at previous deficiencies.
He adds the study was presented to the previous board of commissioners in September and is subject to change. An update to the draft report will likely be finalized by early Fall, he said.
When taking into account a potential increase in both school and transportation impact fees Steinhaugher said the impact could hurt cities that can lose potential new development due to high fees.
He adds an increase of fees can also price out residents that live in the area.
"We don't look at impact fees in silos, when you're building a house we look at all the impact fees," he said. "It's ultimately adding costs to the (un)affordability of housing."
Last year Osceola County doubled its mobility fees across all categories and sharply increased its school impact fees. Now the county, which has the highest combined impact fees in Florida, is considering raising its parks impact fees.
Editors note: This story has been updated to include comments from an Orange County staff memeber.