BROOKSVILLE — A divided Hernando County Commission voted Tuesday to implement new transportation impact fees, but delayed the effective date for more than a year.
The vote came after a familiar debate.
Builders paraded to the microphone to argue that re-enacting the fees, just as they are seeing some spark of home-building activity, would be a disaster.
The county already faces a big marketing problem because of "the stigma of sinkholes,'' said Steve Culp, president of the Hernando Builders Association.
"Retirees are not coming here in droves anymore,'' Culp said, urging commissioners not to reinstate the fees.
Mary Mazzuco, the group's first vice president, likened the housing market's small positive movements to kindling wood starting a flame. "Impact fees will only stifle that,'' she said.
Other residents complained that if levies on new construction didn't pay for infrastructure, current taxpayers would.
Royal Highlands resident Roger Giordano called the builders' arguments "a smokescreen."
"If we don't have the impact fees, you're going to have to raise the taxes,'' Giordano said. At least impact fees, he said, "go back to the community.''
Resident Joe Lemieux said the fee breaks have gone on long enough.
"You have already denied the people of this county millions and millions in impact fees to prop up the building industry,'' he told commissioners. "Time's up.''
In 2009, the commission cut the impact fees in hopes of jump-starting the home-building industry. In 2011, commissioners suspended the fees altogether. Unable to justify reinstating the fees using infrastructure improvement costs from a 2005 study, for the last year the staff and a transportation consultant have been working on new impact fee numbers.
In January, the commission approved updated fees for parks, libraries, public buildings, emergency services and the sheriff, but decided to delay implementation until Aug. 14.
The 2005 fee was $1,345 for a single-family home. The new total would be $1,387. Then on Oct. 1, when the county and Spring Hill fire-rescue districts are fully consolidated, that number will drop to $1,312.
Last month, the county's consultant told the commission that the transportation impact fee needed to pay for 100 percent of needs would be $5,767. Commissioners settled on 44 percent of that total, or $2,537.
Commission Chairman Dave Russell and Commissioner Wayne Dukes said the housing market is still hurting and they couldn't support the return of impact fees now.
Commissioner Jim Adkins made a motion to implement the new fees, but make them effective Aug. 14, 2014. Russell, Dukes and Adkins supported the measure.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson said he couldn't support the fees even next year. Commissioner Diane Rowden also voted no, saying she favored implementing the new fees this year.