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Officials lower fee increases

County commissioners have substantially lowered the impact fee increases proposed by a consultant, especially for commercial and medical developments. For a single-family home, the one-time fee assessed on new development will climb $102, from $1,330 to $1,432, the commission decided Tuesday. That increase is considerably less than the jump to $1,589 initially proposed by a consultant.

Commercial developments fared even better. Impact fees for retail stores were left at existing levels, as were those for hospitals.

The changes stem from a yearlong review of the parks and transportation impact fees. The consultants had recommended cuts in the park fees and large increases in impact fees for road improvements.

The County Commission kept the park cuts but lowered the recommended increases for roads.

Impact fees are one-time charges made against all new development to offset its effect on public facilities and services. The new fees will begin Jan. 1, 1991.

Commissioners accepted the consultant's recommendations for raising road impact fees for some types of development, among them mobile home parks, warehouses and recreational vehicle parks. The transportation impact fee for a recreational vehicle park will increase from $86 to $719.

A major criticism of the consultant's proposal was the use of national statistics to determine how many cars, for example, drive into a convenience store each day.

Transportation impact fees are designed to offset the traffic increase a development will cause, based on the number of trips it will create.

Several commissioners had said they were shocked by the massive increases and they believe local statistics would show less traffic, and therefore lower fees, than the national figures.

They eliminated some specific categories proposed by the consultant, such as movie theaters, which had contained impact fees commissioners said were shocking.

Yet, Commissioner Hank Cohen, who along with Wilbur Langley voted against the cuts, said he believes they will place a greater share of the costs of growth onto already strapped county taxpayers.

The new fees are intended to be temporary, while county planners perform local calculations of the traffic generated by different types of businesses. That could take six to nine months.

George Rusaw, president of the Citrus County Builder's Association, said Wednesday he believes the County Commission reached a compromise that builders can accept.

"As an interim measure, its a fair deal," he said. Rusaw said the building association plans to hire its own consultants to analyze local traffic patterns, to compare with the county's figures.

Rusaw and Inverness lawyer Clark Stillwell, representing the builders, had warned commissioners that large impact fee increases could damage an industry already in the midst of a slump.

Commissioner Nick Bryant, who proposed the cuts to the consultant's report, shared those concerns but said he believes that new homes should bear a greater portion of the impact fee burden than new businesses.

Impact fees on businesses, he said, are passed along to everyone in higher prices. Therefore, impact fee increases "ought to be put on the housing," he said.

Rusaw disagreed, noting that new commercial development has an affect on government service, especially roads. Businesses, he said, should pay their share for that growth.

"A commercial facility attracts people and encourages them to make more trips," he said. "If you did not have the commercial opportunity, people could not drive to it."

For a single family home, the transportation impact fee will rise from $696 to $893, while the park fee will drop from $248 to $153.

The park fee decrease stems from changes in the number and size of parks called for in the county's comprehensive plan.

The impact fees for schools, law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, libraries and public buildings were not affected by the changes.