City leaders want to reduce what Largo charges developers to create parkland.
At Tuesday's city meeting, Largo city commissioners recommended significantly reducing parkland fees because they were concerned high parkland fees will drive residential developers away.
"Right now, I think we can't get away with what we're charging," said Mayor Pat Gerard.
Largo has about 76,000 people. The purpose of parkland fees is to provide 7.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, a standard that is part of the city's comprehensive plan.
Largo currently has about 8.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, according to city estimates.
Parkland fees are to be used to purchase new parkland.
The city imposes a parkland dedication fee for new developments based on the purchase price of development sites. The city staff proposed basing a parkland impact fee on the actual cost of buying parkland, with developers paying a flat fee per each residential unit in their project. City commissioners want to further reduce the staff's proposed fee by a third, resulting in a fee of about $1,888 per multi-family unit. They asked the city staff to draft an ordinance to accomplish that.
The city began reviewing parkland fees after John Skicewicz of Coldwell Banker Commercial challenged the fees more than a year ago. Skicewicz, who represents a company that owns parkland near Ulmerton Road and 66th Street, met with the community development staff and filed a request for the city to amend its comprehensive plan to lower parkland and other recreation fees used to maintain facilities.
Skicewicz said a developer planned to build about 330 apartments on his client's property but backed out of the deal when the parkland fee was calculated at $2.1-million. Under the proposed fee, his client would pay about $630,000.
The city staff studied the fee structure and presented its latest findings to the City Commission Tuesday.
Skicewicz said the city's most recent calculations show Largo already has plenty of parkland and shouldn't be charging developers parkland impact fees at all.
"The city has enough parkland now at their current level of service over 92,700 people. So why charge the fee? It's killing multifamily development," Skicewicz said.
Unlike the city, he included the Largo Golf Course in his calculations.
The golf course wasn't included because it's not traditional open space and people have to pay to use the course, said Joan Byrne, recreation parks and arts director.
Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Seminole all have significantly lower parkland fees than Largo's current fees. Pinellas County and St. Petersburg don't assess the fees at all.
An ordinance will come before the City Commission after it is reviewed by the city's Planning Board.