When a residential development is built, it generates revenue for the government but also creates the need for services. Yes, the new residents would probably spend their paychecks in the area, an economic plus. But a commercial property also hires people, it generates jobs, and these wages are then placed back directly into the city's economy.
Economic studies show the cost of providing services in residential areas quickly depletes the pot, while cities make money on commercial and industrial space. It costs a median of $1.15 per $1 of revenue raised by a municipality to provide public services to residential areas, but only 28 cents to service commercial and industrial areas, according to American Farmland Trust's Cost of Community Service Studies.
In North Florida's Leon County, the government makes 85 cents per dollar in residential areas and $1.57 in commercial and industrial. In analyzing 17 local governments, it found that all 17 lose money on residential development. Financial consulting firm Fishkind & Associates said, "When we replace industrial and commercial activities with residential development, we displace employment opportunities."
The marine industry on the Pithlachascotee River contributes significant local jobs including several restaurants, charter boats, a couple of shrimp boats, and taxi boats that shuttle employees and customers to an offshore casino vessel. They are jobs for skilled and nonskilled workers, the type of workers that any small town of 3,000 residents wants to keep employed.
The riverfront land in Port Richey is not owned by the city. Those who worked together as citizens and elected officials for Port Richey debated and determined how the river's waterfront should be developed. Nowhere in the comprehensive plan does it mention, hint, suggest or state anything about charging a $7.50 per head tax to use the river because you owned certain waterfront property. Note: Not all Port Richey waterfront properties or businesses are being tax accessed.
Port Richey does not have marine industrial opportunities as other larger cities do, and, as a consequence, certainly one of the major considerations years ago should have been to rezone it for other use if the city did not want marine industry on the river. The city needs to designate an area for the marine industry and an area for residential and stick to it instead of having the spot zoning that exists today.
The most important thing is for the city to settle on a vision and follow it. The key is planning. Marine businesses can't function in landlocked, residential-based rules and regulations. Land along the river should be a secondary site for residences. There are better locations if you're going to build a high-rise building.
There are plenty of other options available to address the city's money crunch, such as annexation to bring commercial and residential growth. Straying from that principle, a $7.50 per head tax paid to the city for use of the river waterways that are owned, maintained, regulated, policed and taxed for usage by other governmental agencies could have widespread effects.
There is limited waterfront property for sale or rent in Florida. These businesses do not have a place to go, and it may simply become another closed coast town after customers go elsewhere. This will affect total economic activity in this community. Voting to pass a tax that would affect so many people's jobs does not seem too smart. I think the real goal is to keep the marine industry alive and well and growing on the river.
And, if Port Richey cannot meet its monthly financial obligations, let it go to the county to be governed. I understand that is a win-win deal.
J.R. Glazier is a retired retail store manager. He lives in unincorporated west Pasco, but regularly attends Port Richey Council meetings.