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Manatee County commissioners approve four-year impact fee increase

  • By Lesley Dwyer
  • | 11:45 a.m. February 28, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Cedar Mill is under construction off Lorraine Road. Future construction projects will face increased impact fees in Manatee County.
Cedar Mill is under construction off Lorraine Road. Future construction projects will face increased impact fees in Manatee County.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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An issue that has landed on four different Manatee County administrators’ desks over the past four years has been decided: county impact fees are going up.

Impact fees are charged to developers to help pay for impacts construction projects have on roads, parks, libraries and emergency services. The county’s Land Development Code requires an updated study of the fees every five years.

The issue came before county commissioners in April and November 2023, and again this month at a land use meeting on Feb. 22. 

The November county commission meeting became a bit contentious, with one commissioner, George Kruse, accusing his colleagues of playing politics as an election year approaches and giving developers a sweetheart deal. 

In a vote of 6-1, with Commissioner James Satcher absent, commissioners started the process of raising impact fees by 50% over the next four years — the maximum increase allowed by the state. 

While the board voted in favor of collecting 100% of the impact fee schedule in November, the schedule was based on a study conducted in 2015 that used data from 2013 and 2014. Since 2017, the county has only been collecting 90%. 

In November, Kruse said that based on the old study, the county was only collecting 40 cents on the dollar for what current growth costs. 

Other commissioners were hesitant to use the latest study, submitted by Tampa-based Benesch in April 2023, after the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association sent a critique of it. 

There were 11 points within the critique Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said “essentially threatened litigation,” so commissioners elected to hold off on moving forward with the new study until the staff came back with more information. 

“We can’t put the county in a situation where it gets sued,” Commissioner Ray Turner said of the delay. “This will impact developers, but it’s defensible now.” 

The building association’s review claimed the Benesch study was flawed and overstated impact fees for transportation and parks and recreation. It also disputes the charges for fee administration. 

Benesch countered every point, and Director of Development Services Nicole Knapp told commissioners the methodology Benesch used is the most commonly used methodology in the state. 

County attorney William Clague said moving forward with the new study was more legally defensible than using a study from 2015. 

Under the Florida Impact Fee Act, once impact fees are raised, they cannot be raised again for another four years.

This article originally appeared on sister site


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