BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners gave a nod of support Tuesday for continued development of an impact fee structure that would provide incentives when someone builds where, and what, the county most wants.
The county needs to consider its transportation system a quality-of-life issue and maintain it by using a mix of revenue sources, including impact fees, said Bob Wallace of Tindale-Oliver & Associates, the county's impact fee consultant.
Wallace introduced the board to a variable impact fee system that would levy lower fees on people who would build in areas the county prefers to develop and specific types of businesses that build anywhere in the county.
The preferred areas on the consultant's initial map included Spring Hill, Brooksville, the airport and the industrial zone near Interstate 75 and State Road 50. Many of the ideas for the map and the fees came after the consultant conducted interviews in the community and at forums with county and business interests, Wallace explained.
Businesses that could get an impact fee incentive could include vocational and technical schools, research and development firms, and industrial, warehousing and manufacturing companies, he said.
While Wallace acknowledged that the options might not be palatable to commissioners, he suggested that transportation impact fees could be supplemented by the county raising the sales tax, the fuel tax or property taxes.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes posed a hypothetical situation to Wallace: Two people move to Hernando County and each builds a house. If one built on a lot in Spring Hill, with a paved road, water and sewer service, that person would pay a lower impact fee than one building in Royal Highlands in northwest Hernando County on an unpaved road and with a septic tank.
Wallace said that would be true because the county had already made the investment in utilities and roads in Spring Hill.
"There is a paradox,'' said commission chairman Dave Russell.
But he said the approach was pragmatic by focusing growth in areas that already have infrastructure.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson noted that he liked the idea of promoting infill development in places like Spring Hill. That could reduce urban sprawl and would be "the cheapest way to develop'' while increasing the tax base.
Later in the discussion, Nicholson noted that while he would support having the consultant continue to work on the impact fees, he would not ultimately support them.
The rest of the commission agreed by consensus that the work on the transportation study should go on. Commissioners expect to get more detail in the next several months.
For the last three years, the commission has operated with impact fees at half of what they had been at the start of 2009 or at zero. The commission had hoped that the lower fees — one-time charges on new construction to help finance infrastructure — might jump-start the sagging home building business in the county.
Ron Pianta, the county's land services director, told commissioners the lower fees hadn't really done much to help. But local builders have repeatedly said that housing starts and commercial construction would have been even worse had the fees not been reduced.
On Tuesday, the commission approved keeping transportation impact fees at zero until November so consultants can finish their study to determine the appropriate fees.
The commission also voted to keep school impact fees at zero until November, anticipating that the School Board's impact fee study would be done by then as well. Commissioners agreed to pay half the cost of the study, which would make their portion $12,500, but not pay for some extra services offered by the consultant that school officials are favoring for the job.
Although the School Board was initially scheduled to vote on the study Tuesday night, the item was taken off the agenda, superintendent Bryan Blavatt said.
The School Board voted in December on the funding issue. The vote was tied, 2-2.
Blavatt said that means he cannot put it back on the agenda; the item would have to be brought back by the board.
"It would only be brought forward if there was a change in determination by the board," he said.
Earlier this month, the County Commission voted to take the first step toward reinstating impact fees by approving a new schedule of fees supporting parks, libraries, public buildings, emergency services and the sheriff, to take effect Aug. 14.
The smaller components of the overall impact fee would add up to $1,387 for a single-family home, and that would drop to $1,312 after Oct. 1, when the consolidation of the Hernando County and Spring Hill fire-rescue units is complete.
Staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.