Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

No Sarasota Plan to Raise Road Fees for Developers

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

No Sarasota Plan to Raise Road Fees for Developers

Article excerpt

SARASOTA -- Despite concerns from residents over traffic congestion on many of the most heavily traveled corridors, Sarasota County commissioners have no immediate plans to increase the fees to developers that fund road improvements.

With growth rebounding from the Great Recession, Sarasota County planners have hired a consultant to reassess many of the impact fees levied on new development that pay for improvements like libraries, parks and public safety. The majority of those taxes have not been revised since the trough of the region's economic slump in 2008.

The study comes as neighboring local governments throughout Southwest Florida already have lifted long-standing breaks on impact fees or are poised to let their discounts expire this year to cover the swelling demand for infrastructure now that new development has picked up.

But Sarasota County will allow its reduced rates on road impact fees to continue indefinitely, with impact fees that support education suspended completely for another year.

"This discussion is very common throughout other communities in Florida," said Beth Rozansky, a county planner who led the impact fee discussion with the County Commission Wednesday. "Most are shying away from the discounted rates, moratoriums and impact fee suspensions."

Impact fees are a tax of sorts charged to offset the cost of infrastructure needed to serve new development. The idea is that new development does "not become a burden to taxpayers" who live outside the benefiting area, Rozansky said.

Sarasota County has nine impact fees that range from roads -- typically the largest fee collected -- to parks and general government.

Revenues from impact fees in unincorporated Sarasota County have spiked during the economic recovery, increasing from just under $8 million in 2013 to $15.9 million last year, county records show.

But about $7 million of that annual bump was the result of the new University Town Center mall -- the only shopping center of its kind to open in Florida last year -- which produced a significant one-time boost to the funds, Rozansky said. …

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