INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Commissioners Tuesday agreed with a 4-1 vote to set a public hearing to extend the suspension of certain impact fees for another year. That hearing will be scheduled for March 16.
Over the last four months, the county forgave approximately $66,000 in impact fees that would have been assessed on 66 single family home building applications.
The county’s community development director, Bob Keating, told commissioners that despite offering the suspension of impact fees, development has not – until recently – shown signs of growth. However, within the first five days of February, Keating said the county has issued 18 building permits for single family homes.
“Things may be looking up,” Keating said.
Impact fees are costs tacked onto building permits – usually passed on to the end buyer – that pay for development’s impact on county services. Last March, the county suspended five of its nine impact fees, including those for emergency services facilities, correctional facilities, public buildings, law enforcement, and solid waste facilities.
“They’re not the big ticket” fees, Keating said, adding that combined, they average a collection of $1,000 of fees.
Keating told commissioners that if they wanted to consider extending the suspension period, they would have to schedule a public hearing to amend its impact fee suspension ordinance and would have to give the municipalities a 30-day notice, which staff already issued.
Keating said one municipality had already responded and did not object to the continuation. He did not say which municipality responded.
The majority of commissioners supported the idea of continuing with the suspension, though they questioned the fairness of the amount of impact fees levied on residential properties versus commercial developments.
Commissioner Gary Wheeler said that he does not believe the commercial properties do not tax the county’s services as much as the residential developments do.
“We tend to sock it to the commercial properties,” Wheeler said of the higher fees placed on commercial properties than those assessed on residential properties.
Commissioner Bob Solari voted against setting a public hearing for the extension, telling his fellow commissioners that he does not believe impact fees should be used as a development tool – as the county is currently using them.
He said he would rather see the impact fees be decreased based on sound reasoning – not just to stimulate development.
Commissioner Joe Flescher said he would support reducing the impact fees, and the county had considered doing just that for commercial properties at one point but failed.
He pointed to higher impact fees as the reason the county has lost out on some new businesses moving in.
“The sticker shock scared them away,” he said of a bank that had planned to set up in the county.
He said that other counties have implemented impact fee moratoriums and reductions to bring new businesses in.
“We’re not looking at growth,” he said. “We’re looking at jobs.”