The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted to increase three impact fees for new development—including one brand new fee for hotels and a reengineered mobility fee.
The BOCC unanimously approved the parks, fire and mobility impact fees on Nov. 14. Impact fees are levied only once and paid by developers on their new construction.
While the county has levied these fees in the past, the BOCC added a hotel segment to the parks fee for the first time. The county also dropped the Transportation Impact Fee and Multimodal Transportation Mitigation Fee for the newly passed mobility fee.
State law requires updates to impact fees to reflect the most recent data on population growth and needed improvements. Chris Dawson, the county’s transportation planning manager, said the county hired a third-party consultant last year to conduct a fee study. The parks and fire fees, he said, hadn’t changed since 2009.
“It’s something that we’ve been meaning to do for a while, and the pandemic pushed back some things,” Dawson said. “But it’s normal for impact fees to be updated regularly.”
He said the impact fees are calculated by looking at population growth and facility needs. For the parks fee, the study looked at the cost of implementing the new parks master plan.
The parks fee for both new residential development and new hotels will increase more than 100% over the next four years.
For residential, the parks fee will increase from $126 per 1,000 square feet to $404.72 per 1,000 square feet. For the new hotel park fee, the county will begin at $207.20 per room and increase to $450.78 per room in 2027.
Because of the percentage increase, the county compiled data in order to make a declaration of extraordinary circumstances. State law requires the county to make the declaration for increases over a certain percentage.
Commissioner Anna Prizzia made the motion and included the declaration of extraordinary circumstances, citing the county’s 2035 Master Parks Plan.
The BOCC also voted to increase the square footage cap on both the residential park and fire fee. Previously, both fees only applied to the first 2,600 square feet, but the new 2024 rates will apply up to 4,500 square feet.
For fire, the price per $1,000 square feet will increase year over year from the 2023 rate of $76 to the 2027 rate of $114.
With the higher square footage caps, the maximum 2024 residential impact fee for fire and parks would be $387 and $880.56, respectively. In 2027, when both fees hit their scheduled peak, the maximum fees would be $513 and $1,821.24.
The county estimates three new fire stations will be needed by 2030, and fire rescue’s capital improvement needs total $53 million, according to backup documents.
Along with fire and parks, the BOCC passed the mobility impact fee that applies to new development and is levied based on zoning type and location within Alachua County. This fee also increased the square footage cap to 4,500 square feet.
The fee splits Alachua County into an east and west section, with 34th Street in Gainesville serving as the main dividing point. All development in the west section will have a higher mobility fee than the east section.
Dawson said while mobility fees have had separate districts in the past, putting revenue from impact fees toward projects where they were collected, but this will be the first time that the cost will be different.
“That has to do a lot with the infrastructure that’s already available on the east side to support development versus on the west side, northwest, southwest where we need more infrastructure to support that development,” Dawson said.
The county backup documents note that the east area mainly needs multimodal transportation improvements while the western area needs additional road capacity plus multimodal transportation improvements. Impact fees in the west are a little more than double those in the east.
Some mobility fees increased while others decreased depending on the type of development—residential, residential within the urban cluster, offices, restaurants, bowling alleys.
Dawson said the east side already has several major roads running close to the eastern urban cluster, where the county anticipates most of the development will happen.
“On the west side, we don’t have all those facilities necessarily planned or constructed, so there’s more to do over there,” Dawson said.
He added that western Alachua County has I-75 cutting through it. Alachua County will need to replace some bridges to accommodate traffic, a project with a large price tag that the eastern zone doesn’t have.
For the parks fee, commissioners pointed to needed funding to complete the Master Parks Plan.
The plan, adopted early this year, came from a third-party consultant report that shows where the county should increase park services because of projected population growth and the number of current services.
The plan shows the county needs 11 new parks to evenly spread its preferred level of service across Alachua County. The plan has an estimated cost of $87 million to complete by 2035.
One funding source is the new iteration of the Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP) surtax passed in 2022. Voters allowed the county to increase the WSPP surtax from half a cent to a full cent. The new half cent is dedicated to roads, affordable housing, fire stations and other infrastructure; the other half cent continues the WSPP programs.
In the past iteration of WSPP, the county followed a roughly 90/10 split, with 90% going to conservation lands and 10% going to parks and active recreation.
Under the new version, the BOCC voted to change the split to 80/20, netting the parks and active recreation side an estimated $40 million over the surtax’s 10 years.
The WSPP surtax and parks impact fee will help get closer to the funding amount. Dawson said the county doesn’t know how much the new fees will bring to the county.
Between the $40 million coming from WSPP, new parks impact fees and other parks funding, the county will work towards the $87 million master parks plan for 2035.
Dawson said almost all new development within unincorporated Alachua County has stayed inside the urban cluster boundaries. He said the urban clusters still have undeveloped land that should serve the county’s development needs for over a decade.
Cities can adopt their own impact fees or adopt the fees set by the county, though Dawson said none of the cities have used county impact fees. Newberry recently set its own impact fees for the first time.