Miami-Dade OKs first road impact fee hike in 15 years
By Risa Polansky
Miami-Dade County's road impact fees are to rise for the first time in 15 years after commissioners approved a hike last week, some torn over whether developers can handle added costs in an already-strained economy.
The county collects the fees from builders to help provide the needed infrastructure that comes with new development.
Florida statutes mandate that local governments calculate road impact fees based on the most recent local data reflecting road construction costs.
Still, charges here have remained stagnant since 1994.
Now, the county needs to begin charging what it actually costs to build roads, the administration says.
To cushion the blow in a tough economy, the plan is to phase in the hike, giving developers five years before paying the full charge.
Some commissioners worried that any increase in today's tough market would be too much for builders.
Others, concerned with the county's dwindling coffers, protested the phase-in, saying now is not the time to give developers a break.
"I think inflation is happening the opposite way," Rebeca Sosa said. "What developers are going to be paying for increases when this county is in real need of development?"
Don't pity the developers, Katy Sorenson countered, noting that, by the time the full fees kick in five years down the line, builders will have had a 20-year break from paying appropriate charges.
"The phase-in is not really in the best interest of the public," she said.
The point of impact fees is to "have the impact paid for by the people who are causing the impact."
In considering the proposed fee schedule over the summer, industry players said they accepted the hike largely because of the phase-in, which provides for declining discounts of 70% to 10% over the next five years.
The higher fees are expected to increase county revenue by about $95 million to $120 million over the five-year period, documents say.
No developers spoke at last week's meeting.
Commissioner Javier Souto initially objected to the hike, though he later voted in favor.
"By us increasing a fee on an industry that is already hurtů I don't think this is the way to go, and I don't agree with this," he said, worrying builders could end up passing added costs on to consumers.
Ms. Sorenson — who said it's the market that determines home prices — stressed that "we're already in arrears. We're already way behind in terms of the impact being paid forů something's got to give somewhere."
She protested also a Florida Senate bill that would ban local governments from collecting or imposing fees for three years.
Though some opposed the local fee hike — it passed in a nine-to-three vote, with Commissioners Sorenson, Sosa and Barbara Jordan voting no and Audrey Edmonson absent — none spoke in favor of the proposed statewide ban.