Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Action Alert: Public hearing and final vote on March 3rd re: BoCC proposal to extend impact fee reductions

On Tuesday, March 3rd the Lee County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on their proposal to extend the impact fee reductions (with proposal to only collect 45% of the full cost) for THREE more years.  At the end of the meeting they will vote on the proposal. Much is at stake for advocates of complete streets and county taxpayers in this decision, so plan to share your views with commissioners at the March 3rd meeting or before. Click here for BikeWalkLee's Jan. 29th letter to Commissioners urging them to vote to return impact fees to the full 100% rate, as modified by the Duncan Report updates.

For additional statements about what's at stake in this decision read:

 What do I need to do?
1. Write a Letter to the Editor of the News Press expressing your support for ending impact fee reductions.

  2,  Before Tuesday, March 3rd call, email and/or write the Commissioners to urge them to end impact fee reductions.  Under the current ordinance the reductions automatically expire March 13th.

3. Speak at the March 3rd County Commission public hearing before final vote on the impact fee rates. (9:30 a.m. in County Commission Chambers)

Opportunities for Communicating with Individual Commissioners: (Write a letter, an email or call County Commissioners)

o John Manning: dist1@leegov.com, 533-2224
o Cecil Pendergrass: dist2@leegov.com, 533-2227
o Larry Kiker: dist3@leegov.com, 533-2223
o Brian Hamman: dist4@leegov.com, 533-2226
o Frank Mann: dist5@leegov.com, 533-2225 [NOTE: only commissioner who voted against the impact fee reductions.]

Letters to the editor:
· submit online: http://www.news-press.com/section/editor_letter
· submit by email: mailbag@news-press.com
· or any local/community paper that publishes letters to the editor

Background Links:

Dear Commissioners:            

BikeWalkLee, a coalition working to complete Lee County's streets, works for a more balanced transportation system.   At the Feb. 3rd Board meeting you will be considering whether to reestablish the 100% impact fee program, as modified by the recommendations of the Duncan Report. BikeWalkLee  urges you to take no action to extend reduced impact fees, so that the previous impact rates automatically are reinstated effective March 13, 2015, as called for in your March 2013 ordinance.  We further urge you to adopt the recommendations in the just released Duncan Associates Road Impact Fee Study and School Impact Fee Study, updating the 100% rates reflecting current costs.

We commend the Board for its wisdom in ordering verification of actual current costs via the Duncan Report updates.  And, now armed with this information, there are no policy reasons to not follow the report’s recommendations and fully fund the necessary infrastructure.

BikeWalkLee has steadfastly opposed the suspension or reduction in impact fees over the past four years, opposed the Board's 80% reduction in impact fees in March 2013, urged the Board to end the reduction in Feb. 2014, and now urges the Board to reestablish the 100% impact fee program, as modified by the required updated fee schedules recommended in the "Duncan Reports". 
As Commissioner Mann has often stated, "there is no free lunch."  The decision before you is about equity-- who pays for the infrastructure and services.  The County's policy framework is that it is shared responsibility--developers (impact fees), taxpayers (property taxes), sales taxes (residents and visitors), and bed taxes (visitors). New developments create infrastructure and service costs for governments.  The question is who should pay these costs: Those who created the costs and will benefit from the services; or the existing taxpayers through increased property taxes?  Fairness dictates that the costs be borne by those benefiting.  And, good economic sense dictates that  development-driven expansion of our public infrastructure --roads, schools, parks—be fully funded.   

Otherwise, we will usher in long-term consequences of a declining reputation and  the inability to attract and retain residents and businesses, who,  in an increasingly competitive world, are looking at quality of life features.

Road impact fees are a significant source of revenues for transportation infrastructure projects, including  bike/ped improvements, both as part of roadway projects and as stand-alone retrofit projects.  Any reduction in road impact fees has an adverse effect on funds available for these improvements.  According to LeeDOT's 1/16/15 report to Commissioner Mann detailing the list of completed transportation projects funded with road impact fees from 2000 to present, 38% of bike/ped facilities during this period were funded with impact fees.
There are currently $58 million worth of bike/ped stand-alone projects that have been approved and prioritized by the County's Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), waiting to be funded.  Since historically at least 35% of all of Lee County’s transportation infrastructure dollars have come from road impact fee revenues, any reduction in that vital revenue source means funding for bike/ped projects will be further jeopardized. 
BikeWalkLee is pleased that in the new draft ordinance staff has  included language broadening the definition of what road impact fee funds can be used for.  This language provides the county with more flexibility to use road impact fees for bike/ped improvements and bus pull out lane improvements that accommodate vehicle trips by providing alternative travel modes.  This language change begins to move the road impact fee into a more multi-modal transportation approach, as BikeWalkLee has long advocated.
Economic prosperity comes from quality investments in community infrastructure.  We urge you to vote to return impact fees to the full 100% rate, as modified by the Duncan Report updates.

Darla Letourneau
On behalf of BikeWalkLee

No comments:

Post a Comment

BikeWalkLee is not responsible for the validity of any comment posted at this site and has the right to remove any comment at any time.