Pasco County is expected to raise its park impact fee to help provide new facilities to address recreational demands caused by new growth.
The county hasn’t increased its park impact fees for 20 years.
The Pasco County Commission voted 4-1 at its Sept. 20 meeting to direct staff to take the necessary steps to pursue raising the fee to $3,450.15, per residential unit, whether that dwelling is single-family, or multi-family.
The current park impact fee is $891.82 per single-family unit and $627 per multi-family unit.
Impact fees are aimed at paying for impacts caused by growth. They cannot be used for maintenance expenses.
The main reason the county is pursuing using a per-unit approach, regardless of whether it’s single-family or multi-family, is because data did not reveal much difference regarding the number of people living in both types of units, said Keith Wiley, the county’s director of parks, recreation, and natural resources.
Wiley said that county staff has been working on updating the impact fee since 2015, when the board adopted the master parks plan.
He also noted that voters approved a General Obligation bond in 2018 to raise revenues to address deferred maintenance.
The capital plan addresses the county’s parks needs through 2045, Wiley said.
It’s a plan-based approach, which means it specifically focuses on projects.
The benefit of using that type of approach is that people can see what they’re going to get for the fees they’re paying, he said.
“We received a lot of positive input on that,” Wiley said, noting the plan’s transparency has helped propel it forward to the board for its consideration.
“I just wanted the public to know that this is not something we’ve thrown together. It’s been a long, a very long journey to get here,” he said.
The proposed impact fee is an effort to “true up” a fee that’s been unchanged for 20 years, Wiley said.
In order to raise an existing impact fee by more than 50%, the county must “demonstrate extraordinary circumstances,” he said.
“It’s an easy demonstration. We’ve had unprecedented growth, we’ve all seen it,” Wiley said.
The county is inundated with requests for field use, he added.
“Pretty much all of our facilities are at capacity. This proposal to increase the impact fee is an effort to update all of those costs so that we can actually do what we need to do,” Wiley said.
“Costs of materials have increased. Land values have increased,” he said.
“Basically, to date, over the last 15 years, we’ve pretty much negotiated around six district parks — the land for those facilities. We’re seeking the money to get those facilities built,” Wiley said.
“So, originally, when we went out to the consultant, we said, ‘We’re kind of behind, so we really want to get this done in the next 15 years. So, we set a horizon of 2035,” Wiley said.
The total cost is around $266 million for several projects.
To complete the work by 2035 would require an impact fee of $4,820.19, Wiley said, acknowledging that would be “a pretty substantial increase.
“After talking to stakeholders, we stretched the term out to 2045,” he said, which lowered the proposed fee to $3,450.15 per unit.
At the Sept. 20 meeting, county staff asked the county board to trigger the process to change the comprehensive plan to clean up the level of service per the impact fee study, and then to follow that up with land development code change that would ultimately result in the impact fee increase.
Staff recommended the county follow a recommendation by stakeholders to phase in the increase over two years.
But Commissioner Jack Mariano instead made a motion to go straight to a $3,450.15 fee, without phasing it in, once the board adopts it.
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said the county needs another source of revenue to help pay for park improvements.
She suggested a Municipal Services Taxes Unit, which would mean taxpayers across the county would help pay for park improvements.
“This is how other counties pay for their parks,” Starkey said. “I don’t think it should be a high number. I think it should be a number that’s $10 to $20. It’s bondable and we can start building stuff right away,” Starkey said.
Her suggestion, however, failed to gain any traction with her colleagues.
When the board voted on Mariano’s motion, Starkey dissented.
“I’m more inclined to do my idea. I support an (impact fee) increase, but my preference is a blend (with a MSTU), so we can get working right away,” Starkey said.
Published September 28, 2022