Hillsborough to consider higher impact fees

If approved, the higher fees would start before proposed state legislation could limit the size of fee increases
Aerial photo of homes and new construction in the Southfork Lakes subdivision in Riverview in March 2020.
Aerial photo of homes and new construction in the Southfork Lakes subdivision in Riverview in March 2020. [ Times (2020) ]
Published March 3, 2021|Updated March 3, 2021

TAMPA — A Hillsborough Commission majority agreed Wednesday to consider eliminating discounts on development fees for transportation and parks.

On a pair of 4-1 votes, commissioners said they would schedule public hearings to charge 100 percent of the impact fees that currently are being phased in through 2022. The impetus is proposed legislation in Tallahassee that would limit future fee increases, said Commission Chair Pat Kemp, who advocated for discontinuing the discounts.

The bills, limiting impact fee increases to 3 percent annually, “clearly change the playing field,” said Commissioner Kimberly Overman, “and picking an arbitrary increase does not make financial sense to me.”

The county’s impact fees for transportation and parks are scheduled for double-digit percentage increases in each of the next two years under plans authorized by commissioners in June 2020.

Related: Commissioner seeks impact fee increase

Impact fees, often called mobility fees when dealing with transportation, vary according to the size of the house and the location where it is built. They are one-time assessments on new construction to help pay for the roads, schools and other services needed to accommodate new residents and businesses.

“Infrastructure costs money. Somebody has to pay for it,” said Commissioner Mariella Smith. “Whatever the developer doesn’t pay the taxpayer has to pay, or else nobody pays and our community goes without.”

The proposed state legislation, SB 750, limiting impact fee increases is sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and its House companion, HB 337, is sponsored by Rep. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rock Beach. If approved, the state measure would prohibit the county from collecting its full fees that had been called for in consultants’ studies.

A 2020 report from consultant Tindale Oliver had proposed increasing Hillsborough’s transportation fee from $5,094 to as much as $9,183 for a single-family home. Commissioners, however, agreed to assess it at 80 percent of that rate for the current year with 10 percent increases on Jan. 1 and Oct. 1, 2022.

Commissioners also approved a more expensive park fee from an average of $388 to $3,300 for a new, 2,000-square-foot, single-family home, but agreed to charge just 55 percent of that rate for the current year and increase it to 65 percent in 2022. It was the first time the park fee had been increased since its adoption in 1985.

Commissioner Stacy White dissented on setting the public hearings, Commissioner Ken Hagan missed the votes and Commissioner Harry Cohen was absent.

”You’ve seen what happens when we poke the bear,” White said, referring to the Legislature.

The discussion came after commissioners earlier added two south county road projects to its wish list of unfunded transportation improvements to be considered by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

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That included $28 million to widen Big Bend Road from four to six lanes; and $900,000 to for preliminary design work for widening Gibsonton Drive from four to six lanes between Interstate 75 and U.S. 301 to “accommodate traffic and development in the area.”

Already on the list, and not funded, is a proposed $15 million improvement to Balm Road “in an area of significant growth, including the new Sumner High School that opened in August 2020.”