The Newberry City Commission approved a second first reading of an impact fee ordinance and received updates on its comprehensive plan overhaul during Monday’s regular meeting.
The commission also voted 4-1 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that will introduce impact fees to Newberry. Impact fees are one-time capital charges to new developments, covering the cost of expansion for every new person who moves into the city.
The impact fees were originally on the agenda as a second reading, but Mayor Jordan Marlowe said the commission changed its designation to be a second first reading because the new presentation had made enough clarifying changes that it was new again.
The proposed impact fee is a five-year step-in plan starting at 60% of its full amount until October 2024 and rising by 10% every October until 2027, when it should reach 100%. The plan also provides an economic development incentive program, providing credit to non-residential developments for every job they create, to offset the impact fee.
For residential developments, impact fees are usually rolled into mortgage payments for a homeowner, according to Dallas Lee, Newberry’s assistant city manager and chief financial officer, who estimated a monthly charge of about $35 added to a mortgage.
Though there are four impact fee categories, the commission has chosen to only use two: public buildings and multi-modal transportation.
Revenue from the public buildings category is expected to meet a need for Newberry’s capital improvement plan, covering additions and improvements to existing buildings, construction and land purchase for new buildings, and purchase of new vehicles and equipment.
Impact fees are usually controversial topics and, while a few home developers have reached out to voice their displeasure, Marlowe said his communication with citizens of Newberry has been positive toward the impact fees.
“We have no one in the chamber here to protest this tonight, and I believe that that is because we have a community that is more frustrated with how long it has taken us to get here,” Marlowe said.
The impact fee can be suspended, ended or reduced quickly and easily if the city ever changes its mind, according to Lee.
“The law gives you a lot of outs,” Lee said. “It doesn’t give you a lot of ability to increase impact fees. That’s where the restrictions come in.”
The City Commission will hear a second reading of the impact fee ordinance on Aug. 14. If the commission adopts the ordinance, then the impact fee will take effect after 90 days.
The commission also heard a resolution soliciting its input on several aspects of the economic development incentive program.
“In my mind, this is for the little guy, not the big guy” Marlowe said.
Credit against an impact fee, he said, is more crucial to a small business, and there should not be a minimum amount of employees or investment for a business to qualify for economic development incentives.
Earlier in the meeting, the City Commission heard an update from CHW Professional Consultants on the comprehensive plan overhaul. CHW has completed the first two community input sessions, according to Gerry Dedenbach, CHW’s executive vice president. The first meeting drew more than 50 community participants, but the second one fell short with only about 10 attendees.
Dedenbach presented general trends in feedback to the board in the three categories CHW has discussed with the community: future land use, traffic circulation and housing. The most pressing concerns he relayed were the community’s desire to “preserve rural character” and complaints about county roads, already a topic of discussion between Newberry and Alachua County.
Dedenbach also spoke of public interest in more diverse options for transportation, balanced land use, recreation spaces and Newberry’s lack of multi-family housing such as townhomes and duplexes.
CHW’s next step is to develop draft language and materials through workshops. Dedenbach said that process will continue until around October. From November until February, CHW will finalize the materials and conduct public hearings to complete the new strategic plan.
“On that list of priorities,” Marlowe said of the public’s concerns voiced at workshops, “I can think of something that this board is doing right now to already address just about all of them. So I think somehow we need to include that into the conversation... that way we can let folks know what we’re already doing.”
At the end of the meeting, staff also recommended a preliminary millage rate of 5.9999, a property tax of $1 in taxes for every $1,000 in home value. The commission passed the increase from last year’s 5.92 rate unanimously.