Standing on the primed plywood floor just outside his unfinished kitchen, Darryl Jacobs pictures life in the new house:
Family dinners around the kitchen table. Jacobs helping his longtime girlfriend, Tammie Maddox, with the dishes. The couple playing games or reading with their 4-year-old son, Kody.
With that vision tucked in the back of his mind, Jacobs has spent the past year and a half rebuilding the floors, replacing the plumbing and refinishing the walls in this double-wide mobile home that friends from Tarpon Springs donated. He took out a second mortgage on his sparsely wooded property off Denton Avenue to pay for the renovations. He snapped up second-hand or surplus materials whenever he could.
He was determined to provide a better home for his family than the crowded single-wide home at the other end of the property.
The work will be done soon, once Jacobs fixes up the second bathroom and lays the last strips of carpet and vinyl flooring.
But the struggling family won't move in until Jacobs can pay $1,036 in added impact fees.
"I'll go out and scrounge up some money somehow," said Jacobs, 47, an out-of-work cable installer who does odd jobs to pay the bills. "I'll find somebody who needs a room painted or something hauled off."
During the past few years, the county has been increasing its impact fees, one-time taxes on new construction to pay for the roads, parks, schools and other amenities to serve the growing population.
People setting up a new mobile home on their own property now face $4,810 in impact fees (plus $2,056 if they have central water and sewer).
Jacobs, who has a well and septic system, already paid some impact fees when he started renovating his mobile home. But his building permit lapsed, and now he has to pay the $892 parks fee and $144 library fee that the county added in 2002.
Jacobs did, however, pull his second permit in time to avoid the $420 fire/emergency medical services fee the county approved Jan. 13 and the proposed transportation fee increases coming before commissioners Jan. 27 and Feb. 10.
The impact fees are nearly the same for site-built homes and mobile homes, which pay a slightly smaller impact fee for schools. But the growing fees could be hitting mobile home buyers the hardest, as they are often lower-income families working with a tight budget.
"Some people are pushed to pay $20,000 or $25,000 for a mobile home," said B.J. Morris, owner of B.J.'s Mobile Homes in Hudson. "When you put a $6,000 or $7,000 impact fee on them, that's really tough _ whereas if you're buying a $200,000 or $300,000 house, that little $7,000 fee doesn't mean anything to those people."
Certainly much of the county's growth is occurring in the more affluent central Pasco subdivisions. But mobile homes accounted for one out of every eight new housing permits issued in Pasco County last year.
The impact fees are based on the county's costs to build the new roads, schools and other facilities for the growing population, County Commission Chairman Peter Altman said. The county's costs per family are the same, regardless of whether that family buys an upscale house or a modest mobile home, he said.
"I guess the same pressures that these new (lower-income) homebuyers would feel in getting a foothold into home ownership are the same pressures the school system is feeling in trying to deal with providing teachers for (new residents') children and providing space for them to sit in the classroom," Altman said.
"It is up to us as county leaders to ensure that we can provide those necessary services," Altman said, alluding to the county's decisions to raise the impact fees. "And if someone can't afford to buy a home, then they have to continue to deal with the budget situation in which they find themselves.
"One would hope we could provide better-paying jobs so they could elevate themselves," he continued. "We can't get those better-paying job opportunities in the county unless we have a first-class system of roads and schools."
If the higher impact fees put mobile homes out of reach for some families, however, Sunshine Homes owner Gail Hedlin fears a domino effect.
"If the interest rates increase, along with rising impact fees, the mobile home dealers will be out of business and there won't be any secondary homes," Hedlin said.
That could send those homebuyers to neighboring counties with cheaper impact fees, said Jarret Baker, sales manager of Citrus Homes in Zephyrhills.
"When we speak to customers and work up all of the numbers and tell them our (impact fees) are about $7,000, they all just sit back in their chairs awed," Baker said.
Jacobs, the Hudson man refurbishing the donated mobile home for his family, said he was discouraged at first to find he faces higher fees. But he plans to work as long as it takes to raise the money so his family can settle into their new home.
"We're going to be tickled, but we're going to be broke," Jacobs said. "But we'll have food in the refrigerator. We'll be fine."
_ Bridget Hall Grumet covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is bhallsptimes.com.
Pasco County impact fees
Mobile home without central water and sewer++ $4,810 $5,961
Mobile home with central water and sewer++ $6,866 $8,017
Site-built home with central water and sewer $7,373 $8,524
+ Proposal would increase transportation impact fee from $2,167 to $3,318 this year. Gradual increases would bring the transportation fee to $4,887 in 2009.
++ On a fee-simple lot outside a mobile home park