The Pasco County Commission has approved park impact fees of $3,450.15 per residential dwelling.
The higher fees, adopted by the board on July 11, take effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
The new rate is a whopping increase from the current rate of $891.82 per single-family unit and $627 per multi-family unit.
Impact fees are charged to new construction to address demands caused by growth.
State law limits impact fee increases to 50%, unless extraordinary circumstances can be demonstrated.
In addressing the board about the proposed rate hike, Keith Wiley, the county’s director of parks, recreation and natural resources, noted that Pasco hasn’t raised its park impact fees since 2002. He also pointed out that the county has experienced unprecedented growth, while also encountering steeper costs because of inflation.
Simply put, the county can’t keep up with increasing demands caused by Pasco’s increased population, he said.
The higher fees will support projects outlined in a master plan that addresses park and recreation needs through 2045.
The master plan includes more than 20 new parks, expansions or other facilities — aimed at providing more recreational opportunities throughout the county.
Joe Farrell, of the Central Pasco Realtor Organization, spoke during the county board’s July 11 public hearing.
“In general, we are supportive of impact fees. We understand there are needs in our community — and the answer, almost all of the time, is money, for those needs,” Farrell said.
However, he told the board: “One thing we’d like to see more expressly identified, or lined out in this ordinance, in the fee schedule area there’d be an exemption for affordable housing. The cost of housing is going up, that’s not news to anyone.
“What is unusual is that when interest rates are going up, the prices are either stabilizing, staying the same, or going up, too; that’s unusual and we’re seeing that throughout Tampa Bay.
“That means there’s still going to be an increased need and an increased cost for construction in our region.
“So, we’re really looking out for those kinds of folks — just basically for our workforce. For first-time homebuyers, it’s getting harder and harder,” Farrell said.
Farrell’s appeal found some support from Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano: “They’re not looking for a full exemption, but maybe a partial.”
But Commissioner Seth Weightman said he could not support the request.
“I’m opposed to the exemption, until we understand the full impacts of the Live Local Act. I don’t think we need to be giving any further exemption to fees for affordable housing,” Weightman said.
The Live Local Act, approved by the Florida Legislature during its last session, allows land that has been zoned for commercial or industrial uses to be converted to multifamily development and to qualify for a tax exemption — provided the development meets requirements relating to a provision of affordable housing.
It is unclear, at this point, what impact the new law will have on the ability of local jurisdictions to promote economic development, and on tax revenues that support local budgets.
Weightman has been paying close attention to potential impacts.
“We have five (Live Local projects) in the pipeline,” Weightman said.
“I think we need to wait 12 months to understand the impact of this bill and what it can mean to our tax base before we make any decision on this particular exemption,” he said.
However, Weightman added, he would be willing to take another look at the issue in 12 months — after more is known about potential impacts from Live Local.
While stakeholders asked for the higher fees to be phased in, the Pasco County Planning Commission asked the board to consider a smaller increase.
The planning board pointed to other jurisdictions with lesser fees and to an economy that is not as strong as it was when the county board began talking about the increased park impact fee last year.
But the planning board’s concerns did not sway the county board.
After the rate increase was approved, Wiley said, via email, that the board’s action demonstrates that the county knows that parks, recreation centers and natural resources play an essential role in the community.
“The approval of the impact fee by the Pasco Board of County Commissioners shows the board’s tremendous and unwavering support for our team and the services we provide,” the parks department leader said.
“This increase will help us fund more than 20 major park projects across the county and will allow us to continue to improve the quality of life of Pasco County residents by providing even more athletic, recreational, cultural and educational opportunities,” Wiley said.
Published August 09, 2023