The Newberry City Commission postponed a final vote to establish impact fees at its regular meeting on Monday. Instead, the commissioners debated what level the fees should be and the difference between residential and commercial developments.
A final vote is scheduled for the city’s April 24 meeting. The first reading of the impact fees passed on March 13.
Commissioner Ron Coleman said the city should avoid impact fees on commercial development to encourage that type of growth. He said Newberry residents should get the same amenities as Jonesville and levying an impact fee could repel businesses.
Other commissioners agreed with Coleman, stating they wanted to encourage new businesses. The impact fees would also count for expansions of current businesses.
“If we get somebody that comes in here on a 10,000-square-foot, 20,000-square-foot building, buddy, we are knocking them in the head,” Commissioner Mark Clark said.
Newberry contracted a third party to establish its impact fees through a court-tested process. Chief Financial Officer Dallas Lee said the city staff recommends not increasing over the amounts provided. Rising fees above the maximum level set by the third party could lead to litigation, he said.
The impact fees come in two sections: one for public buildings and one called multi-modal or transportation.
The city can only use the funds from each fee for the city services pressured by the new development. For the public buildings fee, the money can buy land for new government buildings, fund additions to government buildings and buy fire trucks and equipment. For the multi-modal fee, the city can repair roads, sidewalks and other transportation projects.
Mayor Jordan Marlowe said fees hold the city to a high level of financial accountability than ad valorem taxes because the use of the money is limited. Ad valorem taxes, he said, can be used for anything by law, allowing a commission to say one thing and do another.
He added that the city plans to reduce the ad valorum tax once the new impact fees come online. Marlowe said that will ease the burden on long-term residents who’ve paid for projects that new residents enjoy while new residents help pay for future projects.
Lee said ad valorum taxes maintain current infrastructure but doesn’t stretch to pay for the new infrastructure needed because of growth. He said it's easier to install impact fees now and keep them low than to redo the process later.
State statute prevents the commission from voting on an increase to impact fees within four years of the previous vote. However, Lee said the commission can lower fees within that timeframe.
The proposal given by staff would set the residential impact fees, for both public buildings and transportation, at 80% of the maximum allowed and then increase by 10% for the next two years, reaching 100%.
For commercial development, staff presented a plan that set the amount at 0% with a 10% increase for five years, hitting 50% of the maximum allowed fee.
Lee and Marlowe pointed out that the commission can decide not to increase by 10% in a given year.
Impact fee amounts at 100%
Public Buildings Fee
- Less than 1,500 sq. ft.--$1,076 per dwelling unit
- Between 1,500 and 2,499 sq. ft.--$1,314 per dwelling unit
- More than 1,500 sq. ft.--$1,477 per dwelling unit
- Light industrial: $371 per 1,000 sq. ft.
- Office: $720 per 1,000 sq. ft.
- Retail: $1,923 per 1,000 sq. ft. Of gross leasable area
Multi-modal/ transportation Fee
- Single Family--$5,631 per dwelling unit
- Mutli-Family, 1-3 stories--$3,815 per dwelling unit
- Light industrial: $2,501 per 1,000 sq. ft.
- Office: $5,570 per 1,000 sq. ft.
- Retail: $7,886 per 1,000 sq. ft. Of gross leasable area
Commissioner Tim Marden said he doesn’t support any impact fee. He said the fees will pan out differently than planned and that new residents will pay ad valorem taxes. Plus, commercial businesses come in order to support the existing population, he said, not increase the population.
“I don’t think that we have necessarily an income problem here, and I don’t think that we have a spending problem either,” Marden said. “To some extent, for me in my head, this is a little bit of a solution looking for a problem that I don’t necessarily think that we have.”
Marlowe responded saying Marden is right if the commission wants to only maintain the infrastructure. He said to start and finish projects being asked for by residents, like paving SW 30th Avenue and SW 15th Avenue and adding onto City Hall, the city needs the impact fees.
While the city will receive new funds from Alachua County’s expanded surtaxes, Marlowe said the expenses facing the city carry large price tags. To pave 1.8 miles of SW 30th Avenue, the city would need $4 million, according to staff. Newberry will receive an estimated $5 million for infrastructure spending and $5 million for Wild Spaces Public Places spending over the next 10 years from the county’s new surtax.
Public commenters, including many business owners, said the impact fee would factor into developers' choice of where to set up shop—potentially driving them into the county or another city.
Alachua County also has impact fees, and Marlowe said the goal is to remain lower than competitors. Coleman said even with a low impact fee, the higher population of Jonesville might still draw businesses over to Newberry.
Commissioners voiced support for a residential impact fee that starts at 70% of the maximum amount and increases by 10% over three years. For commercial, the commission discussed 0% for the first year and then increasing by 5% for four years to a total of 20% of the maximum amount.
Staff will input those numbers into the ordinance for the final vote.
The city also decided to waive the impact fees for around 500 parcels that have already reached a certain point in the application process.
Alachua County discussed increasing its impact fees on Tuesday, and at a Monday joint meeting, county commissioners urged the School Board of Alachua County to levy its own impact fees.