MANATEE -- Homebuilders were in the audience, but when they got an opportunity to speak out on a proposal to increase impact fees at Tuesday’s county commission meeting, they all remained seated and silent.
Moments later the commission unanimously approved an increase in impact fees that largely raises the fees on the construction of new homes to pay for items like roads, parks and law enforcement. Fees will also increase for large shopping centers and they could affect some churches and private schools.
While most of the homebuilders didn’t want increases in their cost of building, the proposed fees are still far less than they were paying until Manatee cut them in half two years ago. The impact fees for schools were suspended all together and county commissioners voted 5-2 to continue that policy until July 2013. Commissioners Joe McClash and Michael Gallen voted against continuing the suspension on school impact fees.
While the price of building homes will increase by hundreds of dollars per home, the increases were slight compared to what builders were paying two years ago, and the methodology used to calculate the increases was well-documented and reasonable, according to developers.
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Commissioner Donna Hayes was concerned about the changes in the way impact fees on churches are calculated, especially because her church is preparing to build anew. She said when she told her priest that the impact fees for the project could triple, “he nearly had a heart attack.”
Fees for churches will go up from $771.54 a square foot to $1,834.04 per 1,000 square feet. Still, no one from the church community spoke out at the meeting.
The fees for churches have been extremely low, said Randy Young, president of Henderson, Young and Company, a consulting firm that specializes in impact fees. The new fees are based on square footage and calculated using the calls for law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services and the amount of traffic using the roads.
Young said the impact fees are based on a “direct connection between the amount of the fee and the amount of the impact” using the most recent local data collected.
Young said studies show impact fees don’t drive away business or prevent people from buying new homes.
When considering whether to develop in an area, Young said, “impact fees are way, way at the bottom of the list.”