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Hillsborough plans to reverse impact fee jump

State law limits when and by how much local governments can increase fees on growth.
New home construction in the Southfork Lakes subdivision in Riverview is shown in March 2020.  On Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioners are scheduled to vote on reversing planned impact fee increases on new construction because of new state legislation.
New home construction in the Southfork Lakes subdivision in Riverview is shown in March 2020. On Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioners are scheduled to vote on reversing planned impact fee increases on new construction because of new state legislation. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jun. 15
Updated Jun. 16

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Commission is poised to hit the brakes on more expensive impact fees charged on new development.

But not by choice.

Wednesday morning, the commission is scheduled to hold public hearings and then vote on reversing its March stance to accelerate growth fee increases to pay for transportation and recreation.

The backpedaling comes after the state Legislature put in controls on how often and by how much local governments can increase impact fees. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, and Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, is retroactive to Jan. 1, effectively negating commissioners’ action in March to raise the fees before July 1.

Absent the new state law, Hillsborough’s impact fees on a new single-family home would have gone up by $2,497 on June 30.

“I don’t know how they expect us to make our roads safer and provide capacity for new development if they’re tying our hands from being able to charge developers their fair share,” said Commissioner Mariella Smith.

Related: Hillsborough dumps growth fee discounts for roads, parks

Impact fees are one-time charges on new construction. They are intended to make new residences and businesses help pay for the cost of schools, roads, utilities, parks and fire service required to accommodate growth. The amount of the fees vary according to the size of the new building and its location within the county.

The state now requires impact fee increases to be phased-in incrementally at no more than 12.5 percent annually and by no more than 50 percent over a four-year period. The Hillsborough transportation fee, for instance, went up 44 percent on Jan. 1 and two additional increases are scheduled for 2022. The 44 percent increase is not affected.

The Florida Home Builders Association said the state law brings more cost predictability to the home-building industry during a time that housing affordability has become a crisis.

Land use attorney Jacob Cremer of the Stearns Weaver Miller law firm said the legislation is timely considering the increase in new home prices due to demand and escalating costs of lumber and other building materials.

“From the development industry’s perspective, we and our clients are always willing to pay our fair share of costs, but to have those very large increases it just takes some time for the industry to adjust,” said Cremer. “It takes time for the consumers to adjust as well because the consumers, the future homebuyers, are the ones that end up paying for those fees.”

Some local elected officials called it an overreach by an intrusive Legislature.

“I’m just exasperated that the way the state Legislature is putting roadblocks in the way of Hillsborough County making for a robust transportation future”, said Commission Chairwoman Pat Kemp. “If only they were so focused on really supporting Hillsborough County and helping us with our transportation problems.”

Related: Hillsborough approves higher impact fees

Commissioners approved increases in the transportation and park fees in May 2020, but agreed to phase in the new costs over multiple years because of concerns about the uncertainty of a pandemic-influenced economy.

At the time, the commission voted to increase the transportation fee from $5,094 to $7,346 for a new single-family home effective Jan. 1 with additional increases in 2022 bringing the final cost to $9,183. Commissioners also considered increasing the park fee from $388 to $3,300 for a new single-family home, but settled on charging 55 percent of that rate at the start of 2021 and bumping it to 65 percent in 2022.

When they learned of the pending bills in Tallahassee, commissioners tried to circumvent the Legislature and voted in March to eliminate most of those discounts and charge the full transportation fee and 75 percent of the park fee effective June 30. The retroactive effective date of the state legislation, however, thwarted the tactic.

Complying with the state means impact fees on new single-family homes will revert to the levels commissioners approved in 2020: $7,346 for transportation and $1,815 for parks.