Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Local road impact fees can now be used for bike/ped and transit infrastructure projects

Although it hasn't been picked up in the media, over the past six months both the Lee Board of County Commissioners and the Bonita Springs City Council have updated their road impact fee regulations to allow road impact fees to be used for bike/ped and transit infrastructure projects. 

BikeWalkLee supports the actions by Bonita and BoCC to begin to move the road impact fees into a more multi-modal transportation approach.  The next step needed is to move to mobility fees, which not only takes a multi-modal approach in the use of the funds, but also provides a growth management tool to promote infill and redevelopment and curtail sprawl. 

On July 15th, the Bonita Springs City Council adopted an ordinance (Ordinance No. 15-16), which amends the definition in the road impact fee ordinance to include alternative roadway capacity improvements, similar to action taken by Lee County BoCC in March.  The Bonita Springs ordinance further states that the Council will take further action as it moves forward with implementation of its complete streets policies as part of its upcoming EAR process.

This trend in providing more flexibility in use of road impact fees for other transportation modes is not unique to Lee County.  Just last week, the Tampa City Council took action on the same issue.  

 In the past, road impact fees could only be used to build roads to meet the transportation needs of the new developments and businesses.  Since road impact fees were put in place throughout Florida in the late 1980s and 1990s, there has been a major shift at the national, state, and local level to a multi-modal transportation system, not just cars, to get people to where they want to go.  Thus,  the road-only use of those funds is inconsistent with this approach.

In the Lee County Comp Plan amendments (called Horizon 2035) developed by staff and approved by all the relevant committees (with extensive public input and involvement) over the period of 2010-2014, the Plan as recommended to BoCC included incorporating a multi-modal transportation approach, and moving away from road-only transportation approaches, such as auto-only Level of Service (LOS) and road impact fees.  The draft Comp Plan amendments envisioned a mobility plan and mobility fee approach as a replacement for road impact fees.  [Note: this BoCC has taken no action on the Horizon 2035 Plan and has given no indication that they plan to consider it.]

As part of the County's deliberations on impact fees, in January,  Duncan and Associates updated the impact fees to reflect current costs, as required by State law.  Their January report on road impact fees had a section on multi-modal improvements (p. 16-13), which reviewed  the County Commission's discussions about transitioning to a mobility fee and recommended that the ordinance be amended to provide flexibility to spend road impact fees on improvements such as sidewalks, bikeways, trails and bus pull-out lanes that are not part of a road widening project.   Thus, road impact fees may be used to fund additional improvements as long as they expand the capacity of the roadway.  Like the current impact fee system, the projects funded must be in the impact fee district within which the fees were collected.   
2015 Duncan Report: Update of Road Impact Fees
 Including this new definition resulted in a lowering of the County's net road impact fee.  That's because including stand-alone bike/ped improvements meant that the revenue credits increased, i.e., you can reduce costs by taking some of the trips off the road and instead putting them on biking/walking/transit facilities; thereby lowering the net road impact fee.  
As we pointed out to the BoCC in our public comments on March 3rd, there are several  recent developments that could have benefited from this flexibility language--Fiddlesticks Blvd, Palomino Rd, and Estero Parkway.  Instead of taking some of the trips off the road with needed walking and biking facilities at the time the housing developments were built, the Fiddlesticks community, for example, has had to wait 10 plus years at 10 times the cost to provide these needed transportation facilities, and communities along Palomino Rd. and Estero Parkway probably have another 5-10 year wait.  It's a win-win for everyone to have this flexibility language.

Click here for BikeWalkLee's Jan. 29, 2015 letter to BoCC stating our support for this provision.

Click here for the Lee County March 3, 2015 ordinance (Ordinance 15-03) with new flexibility language.

Click here for the Jan. 2015 Duncan report on impact fees.

BikeWalkLee will be tracking the implementation of this new flexibility language and will report on the use of this language to provide bike/ped/transit infrastructure on transportation projects necessitated by growth.  We also encourage the County and Bonita Springs (and other local jurisdictions) to consider taking the next step--replacing road impact fees with a mobility fee system.

Report by Darla Letourneau

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