City Approves Impact Fees Below Consultant’s Recommendation

City commissioners today approved changes — mostly increases — in impact fees assessed on new construction. The purpose of impact fees is to pay the costs for new roads, parks and public safety associated with new development.

But in most cases, the impact fees approved today fall short of the levels that a city consultant said would be necessary to pay for that new infrastructure. How far short? City staff estimates it’s up to $5.1 million over the next five years for transportation, parks and cultural facilities that either won’t be built or will have to depend on other funding sources.

Those estimates assume that construction in Lakeland remains constant over the next five years.

The city evaluates its impact fees every five years, and this year hired consultants Tindale Oliver & Associates to evaluate the fees the city can justify charging for various types of construction. The consultant took a “conservative approach,” Community and Economic Development Director Nicole Travis told commissioners today.

But in several hours of workshops last month (Watch them here and here), commissioners adjusted the levels — most of them downward — in an effort to keep rates from rising too rapidly.

See our Friday article for more detail about the new impact fees.

In two meetings today, the strongest advocate for adopting the full recommended fee was Commissioner Justin Troller, who argued that current taxpayers will end up subsidizing the shortfall to maintain services.

Arguing most passionately for keeping the increases lower was Commissioner Stephanie Madden, who said the extra construction costs would keep many middle-income residents from being able to afford their first house.

Commissioner Scott Franklin pointed out that, contrary to a misconception, impact fees will still be higher in most cases with the schedule approved today.

And Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley wanted to make sure people understand that even if the full impact fees were passed, there’s no guarantee that all needed services would be funded because the formulas the consultant used are based on assumptions that may not bear out.

The impact fees approved today take effect next March 1 and largely follow the chart below that we published on Friday. The exceptions are shown in a second chart below and cover the transportation impact fee paid for hospitals, public/institutional, medical office/clinic and convenience stores with gas pumps that are 2,000 to 2,999 square feet.

These are the exceptions to the chart above. In these cases, the rollback originally recommended by the commission would have reduced the revenue generated and these numbers attempt to keep the resulting revenue at current levels.

The line shown in red is above the legal limit the city can charge so the resulting impact fee will be lower than the $10,628 figure shown.
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