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Don't expect big changes at Gainesville's public hearing about impact fees

POSTED: March 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Gainesville will hold a public hearing on the city’s impact fee program this morning at the Georgia Mountains Center.

The hearing will include an update on the program and give residents a chance to comment on the updated version of the program, which collects fees from local developers to cover the "impact" of their developments.

Gainesville collects impact fees from all contractors seeking building permits within the city limits. Residential developers pay the fee for police and fire services as well as for parks and recreation. Commercial developers only pay the police and fire fees.

The city is required to hold the public hearing because, technically, the report changes Gainesville’s comprehensive plan, said City Manager Bryan Shuler.

"We’re not changing ... anything about the impact fee program," Shuler said.

Shuler said there are not any substantive changes to the program, but the plan must be updated regularly, because conditions can change as well as the city’s needs and priorities.

Most of the changes that will be presented today are changes in the timing and costs of certain capital projects, Shuler said.

"It’s basically just an accounting of the program and an update of the timing, nature and types of projects the program is designed to fund," Shuler said.

Gainesville installed the impact fee program in June 2006, aiming to find a way to pay for the extension of city services that new development requires. The city’s fees cost developers $1,281.95 for residential construction and $107.70 per 1,000 square feet of commercial space. Fees also are set by square foot for office and industrial development.

The money can be spent only on capital improvements in public safety or recreation, such as for new parks. The city also collects county impact fees for libraries and the jail, services the county provides.

So far, the only purchase that has been made using impact fees is a home on Ivey Terrace for the Parks and Recreation Department. The nearly $165,000 purchase made more land available for the extension of the Rock Creek Greenway at Ivey Terrace Park, said Shuler.

The city has not yet spent monies collected for its police and fire services from the program, but the city has collected less money for those services through impact fees than it has for parks and recreation, Shuler said.

"With only collecting a small amount (for those services), there hasn’t been an opportunity to utilize those funds for a capital facility," Shuler said.

Shuler said it is unclear whether any of the money will be used for the relocation of the public safety facility.

The city has up to seven years to spend the fees it collects from each developer.



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