Lee County Impact fees going up and so will home prices

Lee County’s impact fees will hit 45 percent starting mid-March after a 4-1 vote Tuesday morning by commissioners.

On March 13, a reduction to 20 percent approved by commissioners in March 2013 will end, ushering in the 45 percent rate.

That’s about $5,840 to build a single- family home — or nearly double the $2,942 impact fee paid under the 20 percent reduction.

Impact fees are collected on building new homes and commercial buildings and can be used only for new capital projects, not improvements.

Commissioners reduced the rate to 20 percent in 2013 because of the recession that almost brought building to a standstill in the last part of the decade.

Tuesday was the conclusion of a nearly yearlong discussion of how impact fees should look for the next few years and a near repeat of the board’s Feb. 3 meeting.

At that meeting, commissioners heard from dozens of people requesting impact fees be restored to 100 per­ cent and asking commissioners to keep the fees low. 

On Tuesday, as the public hearing continued through the morning, speakers again expressed a wide range of opinions ranging from support of the existing 20 percent rate on up to restoration of the full 100 percent, which was in effect until two years ago. 

As they did at the Feb. 3 meeting, dozens of people representing the construction industry wore yellow plastic construction hats, with over a dozen also sporting bright blue shirts emblazoned with the Lennar Construction logo. 

“You need to keep impact fees as low as possible,” said Walter Fluegel, of Lennar Construction. 

Others — including Lee County School Board member Steve Teuber — said not charging the full fees was a detriment to the county because it meant having to find money elsewhere for infrastructure such as parks, roads and schools. 

Infrastructure “is the path to attracting jobs … and maintaining economic vitality,” said Brad Cornell, of Audubon Florida and Audubon of the Western Everglades. 

Some words were more blunt, a not-uncommon response during the impact fee conversation. 

“You are choosing to ignore what the vast majority of constituents need. … When you’re finished, don’t insult us with your justification speeches,” said North Fort Myers resident Jean Metcalfe. 

Metcalfe’s wish came true and, in a change from the discussion on Feb. 3, commissioners had nearly no comments on their votes. 

Frank Mann, the lone dissenting vote and a longtime opponent of impact fee reductions, simply thanked the dozens gathered for their politeness. At the Feb. 3 meeting, board Chairman Brian Hamman timed Mann’s impact fee soliloquy at 14 minutes. 

Mann’s feelings on impact fees were the most stringently antireduction, while his fellow commissioners all fell along the spectrum. Hamman and Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said they wanted to keep fees lower than 100 percent, while Manning said at the Feb. 3 meeting a county staff recommendation of an 85 percent was acceptable. Commissioner Larry Kiker initially proposed the 45 percent rate. 

Before setting the 45percent rate, the board voted to accept the conclusions outlined in a commissioned. Those included changes to other impact fee schedules, including for multifamily homes — a 10.7 percent increase in the fee; and mobile home parks — a 76.1 percent increase. 

The division of fees will also change. 

The percentage of impact fees going to roads will decrease, while fees going to the school district will increase. 

The county is required under state law to review its impact fee rates every three years. Courtesy of News-Press