After months of back-and-forth, the Newberry City Commission approved an ordinance introducing impact fees in its regular meeting Monday.
The impact fees, one-time capital charges to new residential and non-residential developments, help cover the cost of expansion and infrastructure when new people and businesses move into the city.
The fees will be introduced through a five-year step-in plan, starting at 60% and rising by 10% every year in October until they reach their full amount in 2027. An impact fee’s amount varies based on the type and size of the development, but for homeowners it is usually rolled into the mortgage, adding about $35 monthly.
The final vote to approve the impact fees passed 3-1 with Commissioner Tim Marden dissenting and Commissioner Tony Mazon absent.
Marden has consistently opposed the impact fees, expressing concerns that it will scare new residents away from Newberry, which will also decrease commercial interests in the town.
Commissioner Farnsworth pointed out it is still much cheaper to live in Newberry than anywhere else in Alachua County, and he does not expect residential or commercial interest to dwindle as a result of the fees.
“I think that it’s very telling that we’ve had this conversation for a long time and the only person that has objected to this are homebuilders,” Marlowe said. “But every resident is dying for us to pave some roads, put in some sidewalks, put in the infrastructure that keeps their quality of life.”
Marlowe said people move to Newberry as fast as developers can create places for them, and the developers he has spoken to do not seem to mind the impact fees.
At the same meeting, the commission approved various stages of action in four housing developments, all processes that will stretch over several years.
The commission also voted unanimously to issue debt to FlagStar Bank to finance the city’s new quint fire truck. The truck, which replaces a 25-year-old quint and for which Newberry will host a push-in ceremony on Saturday, is already in operation at the Newberry Fire Station.
Expected to serve Newberry for the next 20 years, the fire truck cost the city $882,000 that will be paid out of the additional $60,000 per year from the fire assessment which the commission raised in 2021. The city could pay the cost all at once but would suffer from an additional $300,000 cash deficiency. By issuing a debt to FlagStar, the city will spread out the deficit, paying about $205,000 each year at 4.873% interest.
City Manager Mike New also made a financial request to the commission, asking them to pledge $50,000 as a 9-to-1 match for a $450,000 grant he is applying for to fund the Ag Tech Park. New said the tech park, which is still in early planning stages, is gaining traction and would benefit greatly from the grant and a full-time regional innovation officer to plan it.
The last item on the commission’s agenda was a request from the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, asking for a joint meeting to follow up on the discussion from their last joint meeting on July 10.
The commission unanimously granted the mayor authorization to write a letter to the county, respectfully declining their request for another joint meeting. The Newberry commissioners and mayor agreed that the last meeting, which lasted over five hours, had led in circles and accomplished nothing while the county commissioners deliberated over whether to approve the three projects they are thinking of placing on Newberry land.
Newberry has stated its support and desire for the recycling facility, fire department training center and meat processing plant to come to town and benefit its farmers, according to Marlowe.
Marlowe pointed out that Newberry has nothing to do with the approval of county projects and there is nothing else for the city to say, and the county needs to figure out the projects because Newberry’s only point of discussion is that if the city donates land for the projects, it wants County Road 337’s improvement timeline elevated.
At the last meeting, discussions about CR 337 were disrupted by the county’s ongoing debate about whether to move forward with the meat processing facility.
“I understand that the county likes to talk about everything to death and not do anything,” Marden said. “That is not the personality of this commission. I think it’s a complete waste of time and I refuse to have our community used so that those commissioners can grandstand on issues,”