The city plans to ease the burden on residential developers by cutting fees they pay to provide recreation and park land for residents.
City commissioners granted initial approval Tuesday night for an ordinance that would change the way the city calculates such fees.
The city's current system is inconsistent and higher fees could be prohibitive to multifamily project developers, said community development director Carol Stricklin.
Largo estimated that the proposed fee system could save those developers, on average, about 70 percent.
The city decided to study the issue last year after a local real estate broker asked Largo to reduce its fee and submitted a study of his own. The broker, John A. Skicewicz of Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT in Clearwater, said the city's actions may be too little too late.
"They're going to make a change and it's going to make it a little bit less painful," Skicewicz said. "It's still going to be one of the highest fees in Pinellas County."
Last year, the city brought in about $34,000 in parkland fees from developers.
Skicewicz said he worked with a developer that walked away from a plan to build 328 apartments in Largo because the fees were so exorbitant. That project's fees were calculated at $2.1 million. The proposed system would have set the fee at about $630,000.
The study Skicewicz presented to the city compared Largo's fees to five other municipalities for a specific apartment project. It showed that the fees Largo charged for such a project were higher than Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Seminole. The study also noted that neither Pinellas County nor St. Petersburg assess parkland impact fees.
In Largo, developers generally pay a certain amount per unit. That amount can vary greatly because it's calculated using the sales price of the development property. Largo staff is proposing a more consistent formula based on the cost for the city to buy park property.
That means there would be a flat rate per unit, depending on what type of project is proposed.
For a standard apartment projects, for example, the cost per unit would be $1,915.
Methods of calculating parkland impact fees vary from municipality to municipality. Clearwater also uses the value of development land to calculate most recreation and open space impact fees. Pinellas Park bases its calculation on the value of parkland, like Largo's proposal.
In Largo, developers can get a break on parkland fees. For example, developers who incorporated affordable housing or who executed development agreements with the city have received credits for recreational amenities, such as pools or public gathering places. State Housing Initiatives Partnership grant funds have also been used to mitigate parkland fees for projects with affordable housing, Stricklin said.
But Skicewicz said the current economy will further stress future Largo developers, when it comes to parkland fees.
"Now that other revenue is drying up, it's going to be more of an impact," Skicewicz said.
The plan will be up for final approval at the commission's April 25 meeting.