Editorials

Manatee County builders dislike impact fees, embrace sewer fee

On the one hand, builders are none too keen on the return of school impact fees, suspended by the Manatee County school district in 2009 to help the then ailing construction industry lower the costs of their products. Both the county and district are planning a study on reinstatement this year. The county never suspended its impact fee.

On the other hand, developers are welcoming a big fee increase to pay for the extension of the county's sanitary sewer collection system. Similar to impact fees, this new charge would soar from $2,315 per unit in local developments to $3,027.

We certainly support the idea that "growth should pay for growth," which is county policy. Under the current sewer system fees, that is not the case.

Regular impact fees pay for the roads, schools and other assets that new development brings. Manatee's population is expected to jump again after a big influx in 2014, and 2015 will bring a surge in housing starts.

Impact fees are the only fair way to pay for growth, and current homeowners should not be burdened with their property taxes being spent on this.

And spreading impact fees to sales of existing homes in established neighborhoods would be similarly unfair. That is not growth paying for growth.

Impact fees generally add to the cost of a home since builders increase prices to account for the charge. Five years ago when the economy soured, the fee suspension lowered home prices and buoyed sales. Today, with a booming real estate market, that government subsidy, if you will, is no longer warranted.

Kudos to developers for embracing the higher sewer fees. Impact fees are an investment in the community and serve vital needs, and we hope they also embrace the county's growth policy.

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