The decision to reduce or suspend impact fees across Lee County for two years to allow the stimulation of economic development in the area will have to wait for another month.
The Lee County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a motion by Commissioner Larry Kiker to defer the public hearing on the action, so that the commissioners could discuss it further at their March 4 management and planning meeting before bringing the item back to a vote at the March 12 board meeting.
County staff was asked to weigh the impact on various cities including impact fee interlocal agreements and the legal ramifications on impact fee credits regarding a reduction as opposed to a suspension.
"The additional information would be to include greatly reducing the impact fees in lieu of suspension," said Kiker during his motion. "Secondly, I would like to further direct staff to deposit all impact fees collected as of Feb. 13 into an escrow account, so that they might be fully reimbursed depending upon the board's final decision as expressed in the ordinance."
Impact fees are a government collection of payment for proposed road, park, school, fire and EMS development projects. They are usually implemented to help reduce the economic burden on local jurisdictions that are trying to deal with population control within the area.
Commissioner Frank Mann thanked Kiker for his approach on the matter.
"I have learned a great deal and also have more to learn about the effect of both suspension and reduction and how the money and timing works," he said. "I look forward to the further discussion and possibly seeking a compromise to the deficit here."
Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass also is looking forward to continued dialogue.
"I look forward to a balanced approach," he said.
During public input, many people spoke for and against the issue with comments ranging from the suggested elimination of "impact fees would create construction right away" to "impact fees are extremely unfair" to County municipalities already have "a lot of overbuilt projects" already to lending problems.
"How would we replace the revenue from the suspension? How long would it take for the revenues to go up? What projects are you looking to eliminate, or are we just going to go to reserves to balance this? I would like to understand the ramifications on all the municipalities and the legal implications," said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. "I think your decision today to defer this is warranted."
"It is our belief that this would be a major stimulus to our economy," said Stephanie Keyes of the REALTOR Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach, Inc. Her group represents 4,400 realtors and affiliates in Lee County.