Hillsborough increases impact fees for water, sewer service

The vote comes after county commissioners extend a new development moratorium in south county areas.
Aerial photo of homes and new construction in the Southfork Lakes subdivisionin Riverview. On Wednesday, commissioners increased impact fees for water and sewer service.
Aerial photo of homes and new construction in the Southfork Lakes subdivisionin Riverview. On Wednesday, commissioners increased impact fees for water and sewer service. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published June 17, 2020|Updated June 17, 2020

TAMPA — Hillsborough commissioners want to keep pumping the brake pedal on new growth plans for the south county, while accelerating what development pays for utilities.

In a series of votes Wednesday, commissioners agreed to increase water and sewer impact fees on new construction and to extend moratoriums on new rezoning filings in the areas around Wimauma, Balm and Sun City Center.

The commission adopted the moratoriums in December to provide time to update community plans and proposed future land use changes for the largely undeveloped areas. The pause had been scheduled to expire Sept. 1, but Wednesday commissioners extended the clock for another 270 days after the coronavirus interrupted the community planning sessions.

Commissioners previously said the county shouldn’t try to conduct the community meetings exclusively online because of the limited internet access among some Wimauma residents.

"We need to do this right and not hastily,'' Commissioner Kimberly Overman said about the community planning.

The moratorium means the county will not accept nor process new applications for rezonings and zoning modifications of planned developments that would create more housing and commercial density. It applies to parcels considered part of the Wimauma village, Balm and Sun City Center community planning districts.

The moratorium extensions passed 6-1 with Commissioner Ken Hagan dissenting.

Meanwhile, the increased impact fees for water and sewer service was almost a forgone conclusion after commissioners previously committed to hundred of millions of dollars worth of expanded utilities to serve the fast-growing south county area. The increase, approved unanimously, also follows the commission’s recent decision to increase impact fees for schools, parks and transportation.

Related: Commission green lights water, sewer fee plan

Impact fees, which vary according to the size and type of a new building and the location it is built, are one-time assessments on new construction to help pay for the roads, utilities and other services needed to accommodate new residents and businesses.

The Tampa Bay Builders Association did not speak during the public hearings. But, Jennifer Motsinger, executive vice president of the association, said in an earlier interview that home builders make considerable financial contributions toward infrastructure, but can’t control spending decisions made by commissioners.

“Yes, we want the county to keep up with growth and we do pay a considerable amount of money to make sure that happens,’’ she said. “We don’t have the ability to mandate how the money gets spent. All we can do is contribute to the county and hope they use it the way it is intended.’’

Commissioners agreed to raising water and wastewater impact fees on a typical single-family home from $3,550 to nearly $5,600 in the south county and to re-institute a separate development fee that was reduced to zero in 2014. It would be set at $1,822 per home. That charge, called an accrued guaranteed revenue fee, is billed at the front-end of planned projects to reserve utility capacity for the eventual home buyers.

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Commissioner Pat Kemp said waiving the accrued fee has cost the county $100 million over the past six years.

Related: Commissioner wants developers to shoulder bigger share of impact fee payments

Commissioner Mariella Smith also sought to put a larger share of the burden on developers instead of homeowners by requiring a larger, upfront payment from the builders. The remainder still would be financed over 20 years by the buyer. Her idea, however, was turned down by Commissioners Hagan, Sandy Murman, Stacy White and Chairman Les Miller Jr.

Murman and County Administrator Mike Merrill both said the eventual costs get passed through to the home buyers under either scenario. And Murman said buyers have the option of paying all of the fee instead of the financing method.

"Nobody is forcing anybody into a time payment plant. A lot of people choose because of the purchase cost upfront,'' she said.

Merrill told commissioners it is appropriate for the home buyers to cover the fee costs.

“Builders and developers don’t create growth,‘' he said. “It’s the ultimate (home) purchaser that is creating growth and the stress on our system.‘'