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East County Wednesday, May. 27, 2009 8 years ago

Building industry: Reduced fees give Manatee a 'competitive edge'

by: Pam McTeer

MANATEE COUNTY — A decision by Manatee County officials to temporarily cut transportation impact fees by half may translate into $3 million less in annual county revenue for road construction, but the move also may put Manatee in a better position to attract new businesses and to lower the price of new homes.

The Manatee Board of County Commissioners on May 19 voted 6-1 to reduce transportation impact fees by 50% and to eliminate educational facility impact fees for project applications received between July 27, 2009 and July 27, 2011. The reduction will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009.

Commissioner Joe McClash dissented.

Developers and construction industry advocates say the changes will help East County businesses and others stay afloat during a difficult economic time, while also giving Manatee a more competitive edge in attracting and retaining businesses.

“In today’s economy, deals are made and broken over pennies; whatever we can do to reduce costs is a big plus,” said Bill Jarvis, vice president of construction for Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty and chairman of the governmental affairs committee for the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, a not-for-profit trade organization that represents members of the building industry. “We’re already seen an increase in activity since the board approved (the concept) a month ago. Deals are coming back to the table that have been on hold. Is it all because of impact fees? Probably not, but the reduction of impact fees is a big step.”

The changes in transportation impact fees bring Manatee’s fee structure more in line with that of Sarasota County, he said.

For example, transportation impact fees under the old fee structure cost builders $7,013 for a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom compared to the current $3,506.50. The same fee for a 2,000-square-foot home in Sarasota costs $5,774.

For a hospital, Manatee now charges $5,093 per 1,000 square feet compared to its previous rate of $10,186 per 1,000 square feet. The same use in Sarasota costs $9,631 per 1,000 square feet.

“In some cases, (Manatee) was almost double (compared to) Sarasota County,” Jarvis said. “This reduction has put the two counties on a very competitive playing field. Prior to that, Manatee was losing business to Sarasota, especially in medical and retail.”

Mary Dougherty-Slapp, executive director of the builder’s exchange, agreed, noting that companies looking to relocate aren’t just looking for the best location: They are looking for the best bargain for their dollars.

“I think if they were on the fence (about coming to Manatee), this could certainly tip them over,” she said.

Alan Zirkebach, president of Zirkelbach Construction, said the county still has a long way to go to attract large manufacturers and other large employers to the area because neighboring states do not charge impact fees and offer more incentives.

However, the changes in Manatee’s impact fee structure are making a difference and giving business owners such as Zirkelbach more bargaining power, he said.

“It has helped me to be able to back to them,” Zirkelbach. “People want to live in Florida.”

Additionally, local builders say that lowering the fees already has translated into lower prices for consumers, more sales and continued employment for workers.

“Since we got the impact fee relief, we have been able to provide benefits to customers (by lowering prices), and it’s really working,” said developer Pat Neal of Neal Communities, noting new sales have allowed him to save seven jobs at his company and help keep his 57 trade partners in business.

And from a commercial standpoint, attracting new residents to the area and keeping them employed brings dollars to local businesses and commercial centers.

“The thing about is that anything that is good for the county, whether it’s residential or building new schools, anything that will generate new jobs is a benefit for us,” said Paul Blackketter, project manager for Benderson Development.

Overall, the reduction in transportation impact fees is expected to impact the county by about $6 million over two years. To accommodate the change, the widening of Moccasin Wallow Road from Interstate 75 to U.S. 301 has been pushed out of the county’s five-year work program and an extension of 44th Avenue East from 10th Street East to 45th Street East, among other projects, may be delayed, county budget manager Peggy Curtin said.

County officials will use the next two years of reduced fees to reevaluate how impact fees are calculated.

Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].

Sarasota and Manatee counties calculate transportation impact fees differently, so a direct visual comparison cannot be made.

In Manatee, transportation impact fees for single-family homes are calculated based on the number of bedrooms in a home. In Sarasota, the fees are based solely on square footage.

Using that example, transportation impact fees for a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home in Manatee would cost $3,506.50 under the new fee structure. The same fees for a 2,000- to 2,999-square-foot home in Sarasota would cost $5,774.

Similarly, in a 4,000-square-foot Manatee home with four or more bedrooms the same fees would total $4,210.50. In Sarasota, the fees for a home that has a living area of 4,000 square feet or more would be $6,772.

Transportation impact fees for a commercial shopping center of 50,000 square feet or less in Manatee County would be $9,284.50 per 1,000 square feet. In Sarasota County, the fees would be $11,319 per 1,000 square feet for any shopping center/general retail facility.


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