Q: Can you give us an update on the impact fee structure that was recently passed by the County Commission?
A: We approved impact fees to increase for new residential construction by the amount recommended by the author of the impact fee study. We also have to increase the impact fees on non-residential construction. Since we want to attract commercial business, we were able to buy down the non-residential portion of the impact fees by 40 percent of the total, so that non-residential fees will be net “no increase” (some will be up a little and some will be down a little, depending on type of commercial business.)
Q: How were you able to do this?
A: We utilized the county’s reserve fund to cover the $475,000 per year. This is just a small amount of our total reserves. We knew that sales taxes and ad valorem taxes would make up the difference in these impact fees. We tasked staff with determining how long it would take to do this and their analysis showed that the breakeven point should be about five years.
Q: What are your thoughts on the increases in residential impact fees?
A: This will increase the cost of new homes, since it is a pass-through cost by the developers, but it will make existing homes more valuable. New development creates new demand on our infrastructure and this new fee schedule puts the burden where it belongs.
Q: Does the county make money on impact fees?
A: No, this is not a money maker for the county. All we did with this impact fee increase was adjust them to reflect the actual current cost of new infrastructure.
Q: Do you have an update on commercial development in northern St. Johns County?
A: According to the Florida Department of Transportation, State Road 9B is on track to open this summer. The developer of Durbin Park will follow in late summer/early fall with the opening of the big box stores in Phase 1. There has been a lot of conversation about growth in this part of the county and I feel that managing it properly — with types of businesses that people want — is important.
Q: Is there a type of business that people don’t seem to want?
A: We have put a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries in our county. They are allowed within the city limits of St. Augustine, but we heard from residents that they didn’t want dispensaries in our area. This does not prevent people from acquiring marijuana, but there are too many questions regarding the brick and mortar dispensary businesses that were not answered to our satisfaction.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?
A: Readers can email me at email@example.com or call me at (904) 615-7437.