Thursday, May 28th, 2009 at 9:00am

Commissioners Admit Impact Fees Cost Jobs

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During their meeting held on Tuesday, May 26, 2009, the Lake County Board of County Commissioners voted on a motion to approve an impact fee deferral agreement between Clermont Neurological and Chiropractic, LLC and Lake County (Tab 2 of the Official Agenda).  By a 5-0 vote the Commission approved that agreement.

According to the Background Summary on the Working Agenda Item Request, Mr. Joseph Bandur asked Lake County to defer $13,653.50 in road impact fees until such time a Certificate of Occupancy is issued.  If impact fees are reduced or waived, or a moratorium is placed upon them, those new fees would take effect.  The staff report said, “Although the proposed wages for the new jobs are below Lake County’s average annual wage of $14.83/hour, the addition of any jobs in the current economy is a benefit.”  By virtue of their vote after considering this statement, the Lake County Commissioners just said impact fees cost jobs.

Even more astounding is according to the Official Agenda, the project was approved out of District 2, Elaine Renick’s District.  Does this mean Commissioner Renick finally admits she was wrong on impact fees?  Probably not; she is too stubborn and entrenched in her leftwing, environmental ideology.  This environmentally conscious, Mercedes SUV driving Commissioner just this week voted against a Racetrac gas station because of an oak tree.  Okay, let’s get this straight – the woman is driving a vehicle that sucks gas down like an alcoholic does a bottle of Thunderbird, and she voted against building a gas station because of a tree?  The words to describe that are “environmental hypocrite”.

Even Dottie Keedy’s new Lake County incentive package for select, green businesses and artists has a potential $25,000 credit to offset permit fees and impact fees.  In essence, Lake County is still charging impact fees, but is going to give you money back to offset them.  If you blog a comment on this article, don’t tell us we didn’t make sense, it’s just that hard to describe the nonsensical policies of Lake County.

If Lake County wants to attract new businesses then they’d better change their ways because in this current economic environment everything is “on sale”.  Imagine if a car dealership ran its business like Lake County government.  At the Lake County car dealership you would see row after row of regular priced cars with extra charges for everything, including tires and batteries.  Then, just a 15 minute drive down the road would be the Sumter County car dealership where they would have cars at summer blow out prices with special deals wherein everything is included.  Who would you buy a car from?

The State of Florida understands how lethal impact fees are to the economy.  House Bill 227 was passed and signed by Governor Charlie Crist this month to rein in counties like Lake County.  The new law specifically says where there are any legal challenges to impact fees, the government has to prove that their fee meets State requirements and they have the burden of proof in justifying them.  Arbitrarily assigning fees to buildings, which in actuality may have no impact on schools or roads, could become illegal.  Lake County may find itself having to do a specific study for each project, if challenged.  The message from the State of Florida is that impact fees should be tightly controlled, rarely used, and highly regulated to stop the abuse by local governments.  If challenged, Lake County’s across the board impact fee rip-off scheme would probably not meet the test of the courts.

Lake County government needs to realize that each day potential businesses are looking at them, either in person or on the internet, and when they see outrageous, odious impact fees, they continue to drive just 15 minutes down the road where they are welcomed to do business.  If for some reason the impact fees don’t scare them away, once they meet or hear about Commissioners Renick or Stewart, then they are really out of here.  Imagine Mr. Businessman reading about this maniac Commissioner who is voting against a gas station because of an oak tree.  He is probably saying to himself, “That lady is nuts and why do I want to fight this?”

Business people throughout the county have said for two years surely Lake County government will wake up and change their anti-business ways.  Not so, and this week proved Commissioner Renick is still fast asleep.  If Lake County seeks to start growth and jobs it must reduce government regulations and roll all impact fees to 2001 levels, or completely abolish them.  As long as these fees remain in effect, jobs and opportunities are going elsewhere.  If you are going to defer impact fees for a chiropractic clinic, artists, and green businesses then you should do if for everyone – Lake County needs jobs now!

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