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County lowers road impact fees

BRADENTON — Following through with its wish to help spur development and create jobs, the Manatee County Commission approved reducing impact fees for roads by 50 percent Tuesday in a 6-1 vote.

And then the commission approved the request of the Manatee County school board to suspend impact fees for schools for one year in another identical 6-1 vote.

Both measures are retroactive to Jan. 1.

With the slump in new home building, several commissioners said the fee reductions will lower the cost of a house and hopefully stimulate sales.

“The reason for the suspension of impact fees is because they’re not needed now,” said Commissioner Donna Hayes. “Construction is the No. 1 industry in Manatee County, and it took an economic drop.

“If no homes are being built, then we don’t need more roads or more schools,” Hayes said.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore said a builder told her he would be able to sell houses without the impact fees because he could reduce prices by $3,000.

“I’m not totally convinced this will do what the developer community is hoping,” Whitmore said, “but this builder said he sold six homes below $200,000 with embarrassingly low profit margins.”

Commissioner Joe McClash voted against both measures.

McClash said when impact fees are established, the law requires a study to justify the need so he was looking for a study that would showed reducing or eliminating them would stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Impact fees are charged on new construction to pay for the effect the development will have on the increased use of public services, such as schools, roads, parks and police.

Victor Coveduck, representing the Federation of Manatee County Community Associations, was the only one to speak during the public comment section of the meeting. Coveduck said his organization was against reducing or suspending impact fees because it would lead to increased property taxes when the roads or schools are needed.

“It doesn’t seem possible you’re considering reducing (impact fees), he said, “and then letting the costs fall back on the residents.

“Taxes are high enough,” Coveduck said.

The delay in collecting the fees will result in shortfalls in the future and delays in completing several capital improvement projects, he said.

It was estimated the impact fee reduction will cost the county about $7 million over two years. Some capital improvement projects, such as the widening of Moccasin Wallow Road and construction of a 44th Avenue East extension, will be placed on hold.

Hayes said she cannot guarantee that there will not be a tax increase but she will advocate that any increases be voted on by residents.