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BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN PEOPLE NEED HOMES — But do we need all these people? That’s the question many in West Volusia are asking, as development project after development project is approved by local governments, often despite the protest of neighbors. Here, workers begin construction on an affordable-housing apartment complex in DeLand called The Pines. The complex is now complete, and already full.

Volusia County charges five impact fees: for roads, local culture and recreation, district culture and recreation, fire and schools. Combined, those fees for one single-family home built in the unincorporated area total $9,264.26. Development within municipalities pays a different fee schedule, depending on the city.

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Impact fees are used by local governments to offset costs for building roads, schools and other infrastructure made necessary by growth and development.

Want to build 700 single-family homes? You need to cough up some cash to make sure the roads and schools can handle the traffic and students your development will add.

It’s generally agreed that, historically, these fees haven’t covered all the costs, but pressure to raise them is answered by pressure from developers who are loath to add them to the price of a new home. When Volusia County raised its impact fees in 2018, for example, it was the first increase since 2003.

Now, a law passed in 2021 by the Florida Legislature has made raising impact fees more difficult.

The Florida Impact Fee Act passed during the 2021 legislative session. The act limits the rate at which counties, municipalities, school districts and other special districts can increase impact fees.

Impact fees may not be increased more than once every four years, per the new law. And, if you decide to phase in increases, each year’s uptick cannot exceed 12.5 percent. So, an increase to impact fees of, say, 32 percent, must be phased in over the course of four years in four equal installments.

Local governments have the ability to increase impact fees at rates exceeding the limits, but doing so requires holding at least two publicly noticed meetings about the increase and an approval of two-thirds of a governmental body.

The bill passed the Florida House 94-23 and the Florida Senate 28- 12. All of West Volusia’s legislators — Reps. Webster Barnaby, Elizabeth Fetterhoff and Paul Renner, and Sens. Jason Brodeur, Travis Hutson and Tom Wright — voted in favor.

The full text of the new law can be viewed online at https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/337.

PHOTO COURTESY MARTIN O’CULL
Everywhere you turn are signs of growth: barren land with trees cut clear, and new houses rising like crops from the land. For this special edition, The Beacon talked with several individuals involved, to get perspectives on growth and development, and some insight into the process. We’ll continue this conversation next week. Share your ideas at info@beacononlinenews.com.

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