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After decade of ‘discount’, Manatee County raises fee for greenfield construction

Written by on Saturday, February 24, 2024

The developer-friendly county commission hikes impact fees by 50%.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: Feb. 23, 2024

Host: After months of foot-dragging, the Manatee County Commission during a land-use meeting on Thursday unanimously approved a 50% hike in impact fees. This is the one-time assessment developers must pay for new construction in rural areas, and critics have attributed the delay to commissioners’ commitment to developers’ interests. Manatee County prominently announced the impact fee hike in a press release, which included a quote by Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge, who had been the main target of critics. Our news team has more.

Johannes Werner: At the meeting on Thursday, the six of seven Manatee County Commissioners present voted unanimously to raise the impact fee assessment by a total of 50% over the next four years, or 12.5% per year.

Commissioner James Satcher was absent.

The county’s press release pointed out that 12.5% per year is the maximum increase allowed under a state statute that limits local taxation.

The decision came after a study pointed out that the county was only collecting about 40 cents on the dollar in impact fees recommended by a study nearly a decade ago, in 2015.

To get there took the commission 10 months. In April last year, the board voted to move forward with a new impact fee study, and it was supposed to come back to commissioners in August. But that hearing date was pushed first to September, then October. When nothing happened, Commissioner George Kruse added the issue to the November agenda. In response, the county administrator and development services director expressed concerns over the methodology of the study, echoing arguments made by developers. Even so, in that November meeting the commission directed staff to begin the hearing process, with the goal to raise impact fees from 40% to 100% of the schedule recommended by the 2015 study.

Instead, the commissioners now voted to raise impact fees by 50%.

Critics of suburban sprawl have clamored for Manatee County to catch up with impact fees.

In a recent town hall meeting, Commissioner Kruse predicted rising water bills for residents, as population growth is expected to force Manatee County to bring drinking water from farther away in neighboring DeSoto County.

Before the vote, he pointed out how much in revenue the county left on the table by delaying the process. Even so, he said he did not intend to “rock the boat”.

George Kruse: We were to move on this back last summer, and I know there were some questions, and then we got some clarification. I mean, if we were collecting the new impact fees in December … In January, we collected $11.2 million in impact fees during that window — sorry, $9.9 million — in that window of time. Even at the 12 and a half percent increase, that means we’ve left $1.25 million on the table these past two months, just by not moving this and delaying this. So I’m glad, I don’t think we can wait too much longer. We do theoretically have the opportunity to avoid the four equal installments. I mean, technically you can, in theory, go up to 100% of the study. And you can do it immediately. You just have to have an extra hearing, you actually have to have a supermajority vote. That said, I’m just happy we’re moving something forward. So I’m not going to rock the boat or anything. I will take what I think we all need to get on this one. So I fully support this motion. We can get it done.

JW: Developers must pay the one-time charge once they complete new construction in unincorporated areas in Manatee County. The county then uses the funds to expand transportation, parks, policing and library. It cannot use this revenue to replace or maintain existing infrastructure.

This has been Johannes Werner, reporting for WSLR News. Thanks to our partners at the Bradenton Times for the timeline of events.


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