The Santa Rosa County Commission on Thursday will discuss adding impact fees to pay for law enforcement, roads and parks nearly a year after the county first embarked on an impact fee study after the defeat of the half-cent sales tax increase last October.
The impact fee study, performed by Texas-based firm Duncan Associates, cost the county $60,000 and outlines several options for the county if it wants to continue exploring implementing impact fees.
The fees are based on the type of structure, and for residential developments, they range from $3,004 for a single-family home to $1,920 for a mobile home. A retail development would incur a fee of $3,338 per 1,000 square feet.
Those fees would be on top of educational impact fees the county began collecting for the school district in May, but which are currently halted as the school district continues a legal battle with the Home Builders Association of West Florida, which opposes the fees.
“The county recently adopted school impact fees of $5,000 per single-family unit,” states the impact fee study. “If the county also adopts the fees calculated in this report, it would still be on the low end of Florida counties that charge impact fees.”
The educational impact fees were $5,000 for single-family homes, $4,000 for mobile homes and $2,750 for multi-family homes, county-wide.
If the roads, parks and law enforcement impact fees were to pass, first-time home buyers could pay up to about $8,000 in impact fees, which would rank the county the 11th lowest out of the 31 Florida counties that currently collect impact fees.
The proposed impact fees are as follows:
- Single-family detached: $3,004 total ($2,114 roads, $499 parks, $391 law enforcement)
- Multi-family, low-rise (1-2 stories): $2,260 total ($1,640 roads, $384 parks, $236 law enforcement)
- Multi-family, mid-rise (3-10 stories): $1,837 total ($1,217 roads, $384 parks, $236 law enforcement)
- Mobile home/RV park: $1,920 total ($1,120 roads, $474 parks, $326 law enforcement)
- Retail/commercial per 1,000 square feet: $3,338 total ($2,908 roads, $430 law enforcement)
- Office per 1,000 square feet: $2,491 total ($2,282 roads, $209 law enforcement)
- Industrial per 1,000 square feet: $1,156 total ($1,056 roads, $100 law enforcement)
- Warehouse per 1,000 square feet: $517 total ($471 roads, $46 law enforcement)
- Mini-warehouse per 1,000 square feet: $417 total ($407 roads, $10 law enforcement)
- Public/institutional per 1,000 square feet: $1,119 total ($1,000 roads, $119 law enforcement)
The fees would only be collected in unincorporated areas of the county, and the firm suggested the county divide itself “into multiple benefit districts for the park fee to provide a stronger connection between need and benefit.”
New impact fee study doesn’t follow ‘same path’ as educational impact fee study
The Home Builders Association of West Florida opposes the proposed new impact fees, saying in a statement to the News Journal that the county and voters are to blame for the area’s infrastructure issues.
“Santa Rosa County has a lot of challenges in that the citizens say that they want better roads, drainage and other infrastructure projects but they vote down a penny sales tax that would have generated enough revenue to meet most of their wants and needs,” HBA Executive Director David Peaden said in an email to the News Journal. “The county continues to recruit businesses with economic development incentives and tax breaks, which is good, but they want the home buyers to pay for it with regressive impact fees.
“The median price of a home in Santa Rosa County is four times the county’s median family income ($60,652) and more than six times the average annual wage ($37,834) for jobs in the county,” Peaden continued. “With the inventory of available homes down 57 percent since 2010, the under-supply will drive home prices even higher. When home prices rise, a segment of the population gets pushed to the sidelines. This falls on the 30.7 percent of Santa Rosa County residents who earn less than $40,000 a year, which often includes such teachers, police, and firefighters.”
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The HBA sued Santa Rosa County and the Santa Rosa County School District in April over its implementation of educational impact fees to pay for new schools, saying they were unconstitutional. A judge sided with the HBA, saying the school board’s impact fee study wasn’t up to snuff, and ordered the county cease collecting the fees for the school district as the case continued to make its way through the legal system.
District 4 County Commissioner Dave Piech said the county received the first draft of its roads, parks and public safety impact fee study in May, but sent it through legal vetting in wake of the judge’s ruling to ensure that it would meet any potential legal challenges in the future.
“We got it around the same time the lawsuit over the school board’s fee started, and we read the opinion from the judge on the school board lawsuit so we wanted to make sure our study didn’t follow the same path as theirs did,” Piech said. “We had it reviewed for all the judge’s findings, and our study came back and legal said it was solid based on numbers and things like that that the school board is being questioned on.”
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Piech said he would support the public safety and roads impact fees, but wasn’t sure about the parks fee just yet. Commissioners could choose to pursue all, two or none of the proposed fees.
The county would have strict rules about what it can and can’t spend the fees on, and commissioners hope the citizens will vote to approve the extension of the Local Option Sales Tax in November to pay for what impact fees can’t.
“If we can use the impact fees to fix the future problems, and the sales tax to fix the past problems, that’s the perfect world, in my opinion,” Piech said.
The Board of County Commissioners will meet Thursday at 6495 Caroline St. to discuss the proposed fees.
Annie Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8632.