County reinstates two impact fees to offset needs in emergency departments

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Builders can expect to pay a few hundred dollars more on new projects in Indian River County now that the Board of County Commissioners has reinstated two impact fees that had been suspended.

New construction will now be assessed Fire/Emergency Services and Law Enforcement impact fees, while the remaining three other suspended fees will continue to be suspended.

Those fees include assessments to support Public Buildings, Corrections and Solid Waste.

Reinstating the public safety-related impact fees will mean that developers could spend an extra $175 to $836 depending on the type of development.

“It’s not a lot coming in,” Commissioner Gary Wheeler said in his support of discontinuing the suspension of the Fire/Emergency Services and Law Enforcement impact fees.

Commissioner Peter O’Bryan told his fellow board members that he would support reinstating the two impact fees because the Sheriff’s Office has identified certain needs that could be met through the revenues generated through the fees.

One such need identified is more evidence storage, according to O’Bryan.

Along with being able to build more space for the storage, O’Bryan said the fees could also be used to purchase property for future fire stations and other such needs.

“I think we need to look at the bigger picture,” O’Bryan said.

Commissioners Wesley Davis and Joe Flescher attempted to change their fellow commissioners’ minds about reinstating the impact fees. They argued that all five of the fees should continue to be suspended as a way to extend the “welcome mat” to new businesses.

Davis took issue with Commission Chair Bob Solari and O’Bryan’s reasoning that encouraging more development when there is vacant buildings would continue to hurt the county.

“That is totally misguided,” Davis said, explaining that no business owner in his/her “right mind” would want to build new if the needed building already existed on the market.

Currently, commissioners agreed, it is cheaper to buy than build.

Davis said that only those who could not find what they needed within the existing inventory would have to build – and if that were the case, then they could take advantage of the suspended impact fees.

Davis added that was the exact group the county is trying to attract to the county to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

“I believe we’re failing the taxpayers,” Flescher said if the commission went forward with bringing back the public safety impact fees.

Solari told his fellow commissioners that he wouldn’t support using the impact fees as a way to control growth and development and added that he would rather the county come up with a permanent solution rather than a temporary one.

In the end, commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of re-establishing the Fire/Emergency Services and Law Enforcement impact fees, with Solari and Flescher in dissent.

Davis told the board and the audience that his vote was essentially under duress.

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