Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Able to Charge Higher Impact Fees, Consultant Reports

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Able to Charge Higher Impact Fees, Consultant Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: AMELIA A. HART, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

FERNANDINA BEACH -- Fernandina Beach can increase the impact fees it levies on new residential construction by 626 percent, a consultant has told officials.

At those rates, the builder of a 2,000-square-foot home in Fernandina Beach would pay $5,220 in city impact fees.

The city also can increase the impact fees on non-residential projects by 386 percent over present rates, according to a study prepared by James C. Nicholas.

Impact fees are one-time charges on new development. The revenue would be used by Fernandina Beach to help pay for public infrastructure -- roads, fire and police equipment, recreation and administration facilities -- necessitated by growth.

The city hired Nicholas, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and a growth management expert, to take a look at its impact fees. Nicholas recently submitted his report, and presented highlights during a Jan. 11 workshop at City Hall.

State law allows cities and counties to charge impact fees to help meet demands stemming from new development. But those fees must be justified by data that explains how the amount is decided.

Fernandina Beach City Manager Robert Mearns said that Fernandina Beach has charged impact fees since 1984, but they've not been reviewed since they were initially set despite a requirement in the city's impact fee ordinance that they be reviewed every two years.

Mearns said the city is struggling financially to keep pace with the increasing demands of development in Fernandina Beach.

According to Nicholas' report, the city averages about 100 new homes and 200 new residents every year.

"All indicators are that steady rate of growth will continue," Nicholas said.

Fernandina Beach's impact fees are calculated on the square footage of buildings and whether they're residential or non-residential. Non-residential structures are not charged a recreation impact fee.

Nicholas cautioned commissioners to keep several things in mind as they consider adjusting the impact fees. …

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