BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County will keep its residential and commercial impact fees at 2001 levels for another year, the County Commission decided Tuesday.
Enacted 10 months ago, the impact fee reductions were set to end Nov. 30. Figures compiled by county staffers showed that in the last 10 months, 134 single-family home permits were pulled compared with 105 for the same period last year.
Commercial impact fees didn't show the same kind of increase. They dragged overall permit numbers down to 179 in the last 10 months compared with 208 from the previous year.
Builders insisted that the lower impact fees have been the convincing factor for some home buyers and that every bit of help is needed in the slow housing market.
"It's made a difference in my business,'' said home builder Bob Eaton. "If we continue it 12 more months, I think it will help.''
"This will help to get us back through for another year,'' said Mark Alexander of Alexander Custom Homes.
But some area residents disagreed.
Janey Baldwin said that the commission did a favor last year for builders and Realtors and it was time to do a favor for taxpayers and put the fees back to their previous level.
Anthony Palmieri said he didn't see that the decrease had caused a real uptick in building. "It hasn't done us any good,'' he said.
Dropping the fees to 2001 levels made the single-family home fee $4,800 compared with the previous fee of $9,200. Impact fees are the one-time costs builders pay to governments to offset some of the impacts on public services caused by increased growth.
County numbers showed that in the last 10 months, the county collected $895,675 in impact fees compared with $3,452,367 in the previous year.
Former County Commissioner Len Tria urged the board to extend the impact fee reduction. Each extra home built puts another 20 people to work, he argued. Those dollars get put back into the local economy, he said.
"You don't really get anything by chasing business away,'' he said.
In other business: Plans for a motocross event on property adjacent to the state forest crashed Tuesday when a unanimous County Commission sided with neighbors who complained that the event was a bad fit for their neighborhood.
Property owner Randy Yoho was seeking an administrative conditional use permit for a motocross event on his 36 acres for Nov. 6-7. He described an event that would provide "a large financial impact on the community.''
He explained that he was working with county officials to provide appropriate access to his site, which he pointed out was adjacent to the Croom motorcycle area as well as Withlacoochee State Forest.
Yoho explained that he had put on many events like the one planned and had operated his motocross facility in Pasco County for 31 years. He also said that he met all the noise-related rules. "I have a lot of experience with these events,'' Yoho said.
Several people spoke up in support of Yoho and his proposal, saying that he did follow the rules in his events and that the local economy needed the shot in the arm.
Neighbors, who are also fighting Yoho over a proposed construction and debris landfill on his site, disagreed. They were hoping to convince the commission that they should stick with a precedent set by a past commission.
In 2001, after an 11-hour hearing, the County Commission unanimously turned down Yoho's plan to turn the property into a motocross facility. Commissioners cited incompatibility, access and other issues.
County Commissioners agreed to increase the annual fee for use of Little Rock Cannery from $10 to $25, a change requested by users of the service.
The cannery has been at risk of being cut from the budget for the last two budget years and an anonymous donor has had to step up and save it. Commissioners talked about possibly creating a separate daily fee for out-of-county residents but stopped short of that.
County Commissioner Rose Rocco tried in vain to get her fellow commissioners to consider ending the agreement that allows Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai and her controversial consultant Lisa Hammond to continue to oversee county purchasing.
Rocco has questioned Hammond's credentials to handle purchasing and contract work for the county. She also said she believes it is the county's responsibility to be in control of purchasing. Hammond's academic credentials have been questioned, especially a doctorate she lists on her resume from a university considered by some to be a diploma mill.
Chairman John Druzbick said that Nicolai would be at the Nov. 9 commission meeting to talk about what she and Hammond have done to reorganize purchasing since former purchasing director Jim Gantt's job was eliminated.
Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent handed over a check to the County Commission for $29,714 on Tuesday, representing the fees his agency has collected from inmates for the first 35 days that it has operated the county jail.
That compares to the $29,000 that Corrections Corporation of America collected in the 330 days it operated the jail in the last fiscal year, ending with CCA turning over the jail at the end of August.
Nugent told commissioners he was on track to return $277,000 to the commission this year. "It certainly does help cut the cost of the operation of your detention facility,'' Nugent said.
The fees are composed of the $20 booking fee, the $5 co-payment on medical services and the $3 subsistence fee to pay for food. Nugent said the jail is serving inmates at 87 cents per meal. While bare bones, he said that "it is all about running a constitutionally correct jail.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.