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Hernando Builders Association says home builders agree lower home prices with impact fees

BROOKSVILLE — If the County Commission next week halves the impact fees for new construction, as expected, Hernando home builders have pledged to pass that savings on to their customers.

The Hernando Builders Association announced Wednesday that every builder they contacted agreed to "reduce the price of their homes dollar for dollar by the amount of every impact tax reduction.''

According to a press release issued by the association, "This will ensure that no builder will experience any windfall profit by any reduction.''

The builders contacted also vowed to do the best they could to use only local subcontractors and suppliers "to ensure that any economic activity from the reduction remains local," according to the release.

The association had sought a moratorium on residential impact fees arguing that the flagging building business, which is a keystone part of Hernando County's economy, needed a bold way to entice people to build again.

Commissioners compromised by considering cutting fees back to 2001 levels, which would reduce the single-family home fee from $9,200 to $4,800.

If that decrease is made, it would be "the largest tax reduction in Hernando County history,'' builders association president Jeff West said in the release.

He said it would "go a long way to help stabilize home prices, property tax revenue and put people back to work.''

Critics of the plan have said that cutting impact fees will shift the burden of paying for infrastructure needs brought on by the new growth onto the taxpayers who are already here, many of whom have also paid higher impact fees.

They also note that other counties that have reduced or eliminated the fees have not seen the promised surge in construction permits.

Some critics even raised the question of whether commissioners are bowing to the builders because they contribute substantially to their election campaigns.

In a discussion several weeks ago, commissioners also agreed to consider reducing commercial and industrial impact fees as part of the package in order to create both short-term jobs in construction and longer-term jobs in the businesses that are built.

County commissioners will be gathering public comment before deciding if to approve a change in the ordinance rolling impact fee amounts back to 2001 levels for residential, commercial and industrial new construction.

Under the proposal, payment of the fee would be delayed. The impact fees would be due when a structure receives its certificate of occupancy, typically months after the building permit is issued. The fees now are paid when the building permit is pulled.

The proposed changes would be in effect for 12 months and are expected to cost the county approximately $600,000 on the residential side and another $1 million to $2 million on the commercial and industrial construction.

Commissioners are also expected to discuss an expansion of the HELP program proposed by Commissioner Jeff Stabins.

He has pitched the expansion as an alternative or an add-on to the impact fee reduction. Stabins hopes to allocate reserve monies or find other funding to take substandard houses of low-income families, demolish them and build new homes.

The existing HELP program focuses on renovating homes in need of repairs owned by low income residents.

As of Wednesday, Stabins was still looking for a funding source.

The commission meeting begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Hernando County Government Center with public hearings starting at 9:30 a.m.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando Builders Association says home builders agree lower home prices with impact fees 11/04/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 12:18pm]
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