Marion County / Ocala to hold impact fees until 2012
Fee moratorium was extended by 2 years
By Bill Thompson
Published: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 9:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 9:57 p.m.
Local developers — and their customers — can breathe easy for another two years.
Last week, the Marion County Commission, despite being down millions of dollars in road-project revenues, extended a year-old ban on the collection of transportation impact fees.
The board, after a brief discussion, voted unanimously to continue the suspension of those fees until the end of 2012.
Commissioners initially enacted the moratorium on impact fees — which are collected to help pay for infrastructure improvements to offset the strain of new development — as a way to spur new construction activity.
Yet a report from the county Building Department offered the same day the board voted indicates the results have been uneven at best.
Tuesday’s vote was the third time the moratorium was continued.
The County Commission imposed a temporary 90-day moratorium last January.
As that was set to expire, commissioners agreed to suspend collection of the fees through the end of 2010.
In September, the board again extended the moratorium to the end of June 2011.
The topic came up at the commission’s meeting after staff asked for a workshop to discuss the calculation of the fees after the moratorium expired.
Transportation impact fees run about $6,100 per unit for single-family homes. The charge for commercial projects varies by the type of project and by its size. Marion County collects the fees for both itself and the cities.
Commissioner Charlie Stone said he saw little value in that since the fees weren’t being charged and the board would likely change the formula once collections restarted.
“I’m not really interested in sitting down in a workshop environment and all of this as long as I know we’re not serious about collecting impact fees,” Stone said at the meeting.
“When we get serious about collecting them again, I think we should probably do another methodology study.”
Stone originally called for ending the moratorium at the end of 2011.
But prompted by Commissioner Carl Zalak, the board added another year.
As a candidate last year, Zalak had campaigned on a two-year extension of the moratorium, which he hoped to have in place during his first 100 days in office.
As of Dec. 31, the moratorium had saved developers — and their clients — $5.2 million in impact fees the county would have banked for new road construction.
That Building Department report, however, provides a mixed review of the effectiveness of the suspension as an approach to stimulating the economy.
From January 2010 through the end of November, the most recent data available, the county issued 363 building permits for single-family homes and 23 permits for commercial projects. That compared to 316 single-family residences for all of 2009, before the moratorium was adopted.
But there were 42 permits issued for commercial ventures in 2009, the report indicates.
And, in October and November of last year, new housing starts had slumped below levels seen before the implementation of the moratorium.
Still, the Marion County Building Industry Association applauded the extension.
“There are several reasons to continue the suspension,” Francine Johannesen, the association’s CEO, said in an e-mail response.
“The continued suspension of the impact fees is an indication that county commissioners are dedicated to the creation of jobs, no matter how large or small,” she said.
On average, according to Johannesen, three jobs are created for every housing start.
Secondly, the suspension keeps Marion County marketable.
“In order to keep our community sustainable, Marion County has to recruit businesses on a national basis and to be a viable option we need to differentiate ourselves from all other areas,” Johannesen said.
“If we are able to advertise no impact fees for almost two years, we will provide the opportunity for businesses to target their location, plan the facilities and enter into the entitlement process. This could take up to a year, without consideration of dealing with other state and federal agencies.”
Contact Bill Thompson at 352-867-4117 .