State could give commercial developers three-year break on road impact fees

Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, left, and Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando join Gov. Rick Scott, right, in greeting guests prior to Scott delivering his State of the State address Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Legislature convened for its annual 60-day session. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

Photo by Phil Sears

Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, left, and Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando join Gov. Rick Scott, right, in greeting guests prior to Scott delivering his State of the State address Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Legislature convened for its annual 60-day session. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

A proposal to give commercial developers a three-year break on impact fees for roads when building small projects is advancing in the Legislature over the objections of Florida’s cities and counties.

Lobbyists for the League of Cities and the Association of Counties say the moratorium could hinder efforts to build new roads and expand existing ones needed to keep up with growth.

Sponsors of the legislation (SB 1716, HB 321) argue that the intent is to help “mom-and-pop” developers by waiving the road impact fees for new commercial projects that are building up to 6,000 square feet.

Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, the sponsor of the House measure, said expanding a medical office in an area currently not zoned for medical use could come to $10,000 per 1,000 square feet for road impact fees in Orange County.

“If you use up to the cap of 6,000 square feet, that’s $60,000,” said La Rosa, a Central Florida real estate developer. “For a business that’s looking to expand, that’s a hurdle I believe that’s pretty constraining.”

But Eric Poole, the Florida Association of Counties assistant legislative director, said the proposed moratorium would overrule local home-rule principles that were enhanced as part of sweeping 2011 growth management reform laws.

And the proposal comes as overall impact fees across the state are down 75 percent since 2007, Poole said.

“Counties and cities have been issuing waivers and doing self-imposed moratoria for years, and our opinion is counties and cities can and have the authority to decide what is best to spur economic development, and they have,” Poole said.

Florida League of Cities lobbyist David Cruz said some cities also may not have the infrastructure in place to allow the impact fees to be waived.

However, Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, another sponsor of the House measure, said the proposal has “no handcuffs” as a city or county can overrule the proposal with a simple majority as long as contractual obligations or financing requirements were in place before the moratorium is enacted.

The Senate measure received unanimous support from the chamber’s Community Affairs panel on Tuesday, the first of two scheduled committee appearances. The next stop is the Senate Education Committee.

The House version has received overwhelming support from both the Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee and Finance and Tax Subcommittee, with the next appearance before the Finance and Tax Subcommittee.

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