Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Editorial: Hillsborough County should stop subsidizing developers

Hillsborough County should raise the fees it charges for reveiw of new development. Times (2017)
Published May 20

For too long, Hillsborough County has charged real estate developers absurdly low fees. The fees often don't cover basic costs, including the time county employees spend reviewing development proposals. Thankfully, the commission appears ready to address this unneeded subsidy. The sooner the better. Taxpayers in a county with a growing list of needs shouldn't pick up part of the tab for these for-profit projects.

Take as an example a builder who wants to develop 100 acres in a way that is not outlined in the county's land use plan. Hillsborough County charges $1,000 to have certified county planners analyze the project and process the application. In Pasco, developers pay $7,000, according to a consultant's report. In Broward, it's $17,500. In Manatee, it's $20,000.

Hillsborough last updated that fee in 1987, the year President Ronald Reagan urged the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." Andy Warhol died that year; so did Fred Astaire. The nation's top selling car, the Ford Escort, sold for $6,895. That's way too long to wait.

The review isn't a rubber stamp. The planners consider each project's impact on sewer and water systems, neighboring properties, schools and law enforcement resources. Sometimes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Tampa International Airport have to get involved. The process takes time and expertise, far more than what's covered by a mere $1,000. In fact, the county loses about $3,000 per report on average, according to a study from 2016.

The same study contemplated raising that particular fee to $4,000. If that sounds high, consider that developers often squeeze hundreds of houses into a single project. Build 100 homes, and it works out to $40 a pop, less than the price of a kitchen faucet. Build 400, and it's $10. The fee becomes a mere blip in the overall price and certainly not enough to dampen development.

So-called free-market conservatives on the county commission have often fought proposed increases to the development fees, saying developers would have to absorb the costs or pass them onto home buyers. That's exactly what should happen. Current homeowners and other Hillsborough taxpayers shouldn't shoulder the cost of overseeing new construction.

Democrats now control the Hillsborough commission. They seem much more inclined to remedy the unfair cost-shifting, led by returning Commissioner Pat Kemp. Staffers have been asked to draw up plans to raise them all at once or gradually.

That would not be a bad starting point, but many of the fees haven't gone up in decades. This is not the time for incremental measures. The commission should raise the fees to reflect the true cost of reviewing development projects. Anything less than covering the full value of staff time would be a disservice and an irresponsible waste of tax dollars. Stop subsidizing for-profit developers.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Leonard Pitts undefined
    Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. rewrites a fairy tale for our times.
  2. David Straz Jr. passed away this week. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The retired banker will be remembered for the range of his philanthropy.
  3. Lucia Hermo, with megaphone, leads chants during a rally against HB 314, the near-total ban on abortion bill, outside of the Alabama State House on Tuesday. [Photo by Mickey Welsh of the Montgomery Advertiser via AP]
    Here’s what readers had to say in Wednesday’s letters to the editor
  4.  Bill Day -- FloridaPolitics.com
  5. Jomari DeLeon, is pictured at at Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida August 7, 2019. Jomari is three years into a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. She sold 48 tablets of prescription tablets over two days to an undercover officer. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Even Oklahoma, a state not famous for progressive reform, has done more than Florida to fix sentencing inequities, Carl Hiaasen writes.
  6. In this photo from June 28, 2019, a Coalition for Life St. Louis member waves to a Planned Parenthood staff member. ROBERT COHEN  |  AP
    Florida law already requires that parents be notified prior to an abortion, writes senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida.
  7. Students say the Pledge of Allegiance as thousands gather at a candlelight vigil for several students killed in the Saugus High School shooting in Central Park, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. CAROLYN COLE  |  AP
    We doctors treat diseases, but what of the epidemic of gun violence, writes a St. Petersburg doctor.
  8. Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association members protest outside of the school board building in Tampa in December 2017. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.
  9. Muhammad Abdur-Rahim points out the location of what is believed to be a former African-American cemetery next to the parking lot of Frank Crum Staffing located at 100 S. Missouri Ave. in Clearwater.  The empty lot is part of the former Clearwater Heights neighborhood which featured Bethany CME church and Williams Elementary School.   Photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.  JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    Tampa Bay’s lost cemeteries are part of our collective history.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement