Bill favors increased property value over impact fees

Historic City News reporters were informed yesterday that cities and counties could be barred from forcing developers to pay local impact fees or to pay for new roads and schools if a bill filed by District 19 Representative, Mike Weinstein, is made law.

HB 603 would stay, until July 1, 2015, the assessment of impact fees by Florida cities and counties unless approved by a two-thirds commission vote. Likewise, “proportionate share” mitigation for transportation or school concurrency could not be applied during that period unless approved by the same margin.

Weinstein, whose district includes Clay and part of St. Johns County, says he is responding to a need to encourage new construction.

“I believe it is more important to get the construction jobs and long-term benefit of higher property taxes from that piece of property being developed than to get that one-time fee,” Weinstein told the Florida Tribune. “That is my opinion, but I still leave it up to local government to get the two-thirds [vote] option.”

The bill proposed is a means to raise the bar for the rights of private property owners; balancing the need for economic development while still allowing cities and counties to approve fees with a two-thirds vote. “This bill is not an all-out ban on impact fees,” Weinstein explained.

The bill faced immediate criticism from the Florida Association of Counties, which pointed out that legislators who supported sweeping growth law changes during this year’s session said local governments should be responsible for local growth decisions.

“It is an egregious assault on home rule,” said Cragin Mosteller, the association’s director of communications.

Weinstein, a prosecutor in the office of State Attorney Angela Corey and one time chief financial officer for the City of Jacksonville, told reporters that he is still a supporter of home rule.

Under Weinstein’s bill, developers are required to obtain certificates of occupancy by 2016 — allowing much needed local property tax revenues to increase; without the need to continue to raise property tax rates. If developers don’t get the certificate, they have to pay the impact fees or pay for transportation and school concurrency, that otherwise would have been required.

Weinstein serves as chair of the Regional Economic Development Commission. He said no specific group asked him to make the law changes. “It just came out of our desire to make it easier to get Florida building again.”

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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