Palm Beach County considering large increases in impact fees paid by developers. From Palm Beach Post:
Who is paying for all the new infrastructure and will builders have to pay more in impact fees?
Builders may soon have to pay more to build in Palm Beach County. The question is how much more.
The Chicago-based Benesch engineering firm concluded in a 310-page report that current impact fees are woefully inadequate to pay for additional infrastructure needed to accommodate surging growth in the county, and that an increase of more than 50% would be justified.
Builders are assessed impact fees to help offset the costs associated with the construction of new roads, schools, parks, fire-rescue stations, law enforcement facilities, public buildings and libraries.
County commissioners, though, rejected the unprecedented increase in impact fees called for by Benesch during a public meeting on July 17 despite a finding that existing residents are paying far too much for new infrastructure.
The consultant argued that the county has experienced such significant growth that commissioners should cite “extraordinary circumstances,” a finding needed to increase impact fees above the limit of 12.5%.
To do so, a super majority of commissioners, five of the seven, would need to accept the consultant’s recommendation. Not one commissioner expressed support for the "extraordinary circumstances" recommendation. However, none argued that the impact fees should stay at their current levels.
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and County Mayor Robert Weinroth both said they were concerned that a significant increase would make affordable housing unaffordable.
“To me this is a giant leap that I’m not willing to make,” said Weinroth. Commissioner Maria Marino added: “We cannot have 50%-plus increases on affordable housing projects. That is a tough pill to swallow.”
The discussion occurred at the first of two workshop hearings on July 19. A second workshop hearing will be held later their year followed by a public hearing. A final vote will then be taken to determine whether to raise the fees, and by how much.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said affordable housing projects can be exempted from paying impact fees. Like the consultant, she noted the burden of paying for the required infrastructure will fall on existing residents if the fees are not raised. She also argued that builders will charge “the going rate” regardless of what impact fees are levied against them. There is no guarantee that a builder would pass along any savings to consumers should the impact fees remain at their current levels.
Baker noted that every new housing unit or commercial project creates a need for new services.
“The existing population will be subsidizing new growth, or the level of service will degrade,” according to the report, if current levels are not significantly increased. It noted that current fees are based on data that is at least eight years old. Costs have been increasing significantly, especially over the past couple of years.
Why the report says the county could justify an overall increase in impact fees
KT Catlin, executive director of the Gold Coast Builders Association, told the commissioners that “the study contained flawed methodology that resulted in conclusions that are not legally supportable.” When asked by The Post to elaborate, she declined, saying that a detailed review by the association will be released once the report is completed.
The report indicated that the county could justify an overall increase in impact fees of:
The report also broke down costs for different categories.
School impact fees, for example, should be $8,322 for a 2,000-square-foot home and $5,892 for highway improvements, according to the report. A retail shopping center should pay even more for new roads, $8,323.
Should the county commissioners decide to raise the impact fees, the most they can be increased is 12.5% without the finding of “extraordinary circumstances.” The report noted that the current impact fees are a fraction of what Collier, Martin and St. Lucie counties charge. There was no explanation of why those three counties were chosen for comparison purposes.
The study reviewed the county’s future needs related to public buildings, fire rescue, law enforcement, library facilities, parks & recreation, and school facilities.
With a population of 1.5 million, Palm Beach County is the third most populous of 67 Florida counties. It is projected to add another 337,000 residents through 2050.
The report estimated that county-owned roads are projected to experience an increase in use of 24 percent, a figure that will result in higher levels of congestion.
Some of the projects that impact fees will be to help fund include:
- PBSO shooting range expansion, $9.5 million
- Airport construction, $68 million
- Courthouse expansion, $135 million
- New fire rescue stations, $20.5 million
- Canyon Branch Library, $20.6 million
- New and improved county parks, $85 million
- Four new schools, $165 million
- Okeechobee Boulevard extension, $60 million
- Boca Rio Road improvements from Palmetto Park Road to Glades Road, $8.5 million
- Old Dixie Highway from Yamato Road to South Linton Boulevard, $12.0 million
- Lyons Road from Atlantic Avenue to south of Flavor Pict Road, $16.1 million
- Lyons Road from south of Flavor Pict Road to Boynton Beach Boulevard, $14 million
- Flavor Pict Road from Lyons Road to Hagen Ranch Road, $18.7 million
Mike Diamond is a journalist at the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. He covers county government and transportation. You can reach him firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support local journalism. Subscribe today.