Lee commissioners hear report on impact fee reduction. Did it work?

CREATED Feb. 18, 2014

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LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Southwest Florida economy seems to be turning around.  And some in Lee County would like you to think it's because of a controversial move county commissioners made last year. That's when they voted to reduce impact fees -- the fees builders pay when they pull building permits.

Some say the plan to stimulate the local economy worked, but others asked, at what cost, as county staff presented a one-year progress report today to commissioners. 

The unemployment rate has dropped 1 point to 5.8% in the year since the decision to lower impact fees was made.

"Obviously, it created a tremendous amount of jobs," said Building Industry Association president Victor duPont. He believes the move has spurred the economy and prefers impact fees stay low.

Building permits have shot up by about 60% now that builders pay about $3,000 to the county when they pull a permit to build a single family home compared to more than $12,000 before.
But according to the county's own numbers, it's collected $13 million less in impact fees that would have gone to county infrastructure like parks, roads and schools.

"It's troubling to us at the school district," says board member Tom Scott.  "Because it has a profound impact."

Now-retired Wayne Daltry oversaw the county's growth for nearly four decades, including the implementation of impact fees. "We were able to grow because we provided the infrastructure. It's because of over-building not because of impact fees that we have a problem," said Daltry.

Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass was on the board that reduced the fees last year. "It's been a great thing. I think the school board needs to look at what the county did last year. We made $8 million in cuts. We laid off 78 employees. I'm still waiting to see what the school board has done with its budget this year," said Pendergass.

EMS and fire fees were untouched in Lee county, all others were reduced by 80%.
That reduction will remain in effect through February of next year, when fees will automatically reset.  Commissioner Pendergrass told 4 In Your Corner the county's progress report is skewed.

Click here to read it for yourself: www.leegov.com/gov/BoardofCountyCommissioners/Documents/Work%20Sessions/Impact%20Fee%20Update%20blackwhite.pdf