County lowers non-residential impact fees

Historic City News reported from the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners meeting today where the body voted unanimously to adopt revised impact fees; resulting in significant decreases for non-residential categories and moderate increases for residential units.

The revised impact fees are the result of the legally required process to ensure impact fees are based on the most recent and localized data. Many speakers to the issue have criticized the County — saying that St. Johns County is not “business friendly”, however, with the average decrease in impact fees for non-residential categories being 49.1 percent, the county appears to be sending a new and encouraging message.

Impact fee studies were recently completed by Dr. James Nicholas of the University of Florida, which analyzed the actual cost of addressing the impact of new development in the County categories of roads, public buildings, law enforcement, fire & rescue and parks & recreation, as well as the School Board’s category of public education, which applies only to new residential development.

Dr. Nicholas’s studies found that impact fees for nearly all non-residential categories should be reduced, while the impact fees for residential categories should increase.

Following a joint workshop of the Board of County Commissioners and School Board on January 25, 2011, and a subsequent recommendation from the School Board, the Board of Commissioners adopted revised impact fee ordinances today.

The new fees for the County categories are an additional 25 percent reduction in all categories, beyond the decreases already recommended by Dr. Nicholas’s county study. However, because public education impact fees increased by 40.8, residential impact fees went up.

Here is a sampling of the new impact fees; combining both the County and the School portions:

• 42.7 percent reduction for general industrial from $3,017 to $1,729
• 60.4 percent reduction for offices less than 100,000 square feet from $7,416 to $2,937
• 40.9 percent reduction for commercial less than 100,000 square feet from $7,142 to $4,218
• 17.8 percent reduction for medical offices from $7,517 to $6,181
• 64.3 percent reduction for hospitals from $8,300 to $2,963
• 29.1 percent reduction for hotel/motel rooms from $4,421 to $3,133
• 13.5 percent increase for residential less than 1,800 square feet from $7,276 to $8,259
• 16.5 percent increase for residential greater than 1,800 square feet from $10,122 to $11,796

The objective of the St. Johns County impact fee program is to collect sufficient revenues to offset the impact of new development on specific public services and facilities. Currently, impact fees fund approximately 33 percent of the County’s Capital Improvement Program. Of the $4.5 million per year in capital revenue currently generated from impact fees, $3 million is utilized to satisfy capital debt.

Those impact fee categories with reductions – all except residential – will become effective immediately upon the Clerk’s filing of the ordinance with the Department of State. The residential impact fees, which will be increased, will become effective in 90 days, or on June 1, 2011.

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