BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission has again voted to extend the moratorium on charging transportation impact fees, this time until June.
In April 2013, commissioners approved a $2,537 transportation fee for new single-family homes, but agreed to hold off implementing the fee until Aug. 14 of this year.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson has argued that the delay needed to be extended because the county is working with the school district to get the Penny for Projects sales tax approved by voters in November. The sales tax initiative targets a number of road improvement projects.
If the referendum is successful, Nicholson noted, the impact fee amount would have to be recalculated because any revenue that goes toward roads is part of the formula. He also echoed the sentiment of a number of home builders in Tuesday's audience when he said that adding to the price of purchasing a home would put a chill on a housing market that's just beginning to strengthen and block some first-time buyers.
Increasing the price of a home by charging impact fees "does have an impact on what people are able to purchase,'' said Mary Mazzuco, president of the Hernando Builders Association.
For some people, it is enough to push them out of their price range, she said, and young families may not qualify.
"Let's see what happens in the next half a year in terms of the economy,'' Mazzuco said.
Builder Bob Eaton told commissioners that extending the transportation impact fee moratorium was one of the best things the commission could do for the local economy. Though there has been some increase in home-building activity, he said, "We're not yet ready. The market has not yet rebounded.''
Commissioner Diane Rowden said she was willing to delay the implementation until February if the county staff could work up new commercial impact fees that were not as "all over the map'' as the current fee schedule. She said the fees, as written, could be discouraging to business. She then asked Eaton if builders would be willing to give schools some impact fee money if the county didn't collect transportation fees.
But Eaton said that wouldn't be appropriate until building starts rise to "a reasonable rate.''
Commissioner Dave Russell suggested that instead of keeping the moratorium in place for only six months, extending it to June would give the county more time to see how the building industry is faring.
That would also give the county time to bring back the consultant who had studied the county's demographics and made recommendations for updated fees more than a year ago, said Ron Pianta, assistant administrator for planning and development. The commission could then have a workshop to discuss the fees.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the extension of the moratorium, with Rowden voting no. She said she couldn't agree to the length of the extension.
The county does still have a $1,312 impact fee for parks, libraries, public buildings, emergency services and the sheriff. Commissioners declined several months ago to approve new school impact fees.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com.