Impact fees in Gainesville could be rising -- a lot -- if a proposal by city officials is approved.
The hike could mean funding for park improvements and Fire Station No. 5 becoming a reality, according to Rusty Ligon, community and economic development director for the city, who recommended changes to the city’s impact fee program during the Gainesville City Council work session on Thursday, May 2.
Ligon gave a presentation with Jerry Weitz, who has worked as a planning and development consultant with the city since 2003, and proposed increasing the impact fee from the current $1,589 by more than $1,200 per new residential dwelling unit.
Impact fee revenue is primarily used to fund capital projects for libraries, parks and public safety.
“What I want to emphasize here is that it’s not a tax or recurring payment,” Weitz said. “It’s a one-time fee for public facilities.”
Weitz said the impact fees are a way to make sure the city keeps the level of service in line with its rate of population growth.
If the impact fee doesn’t properly reflect this growth, he said parks will become more crowded, police response times will increase and ultimately the level of services will decrease. He said the residents and property owners will have to pay as a result.
“The beauty behind an impact fee is that you don’t have to go back to your existing residents and say, ‘Although you might not like it, we’re going to have to raise your property taxes,’” he said. “...The impact fee is charged based on the proportion of impact of new development and is charged to that new development, property owner and developer.”
The city has used the impact fees in the past for projects such as a police training facility and a ladder truck for the fire department.
Weitz explained that the city’s most recent impact fee ordinance was adopted in 2006. The proposed changes would make the total impact fee $2,802 per dwelling unit.
With the updated ordinance, Ligon said the city could fund the fifth fire station it has wanted for years and expand its parks. Impact fee would also go toward funding a skate park behind the water tower on Queen City Parkway.
Matt Tate, Gainesville planning manager, said the skate park project is currently in the review process.
“It has been something that the community has desired for some time,” he said. “This is a good location for that — right off the greenway — so it’s very accessible.”
Mayor Pro Tem Sam Couvillon, said for the past couple of years Gainesville missed the mark on updating its impact fees.
“If we don’t do something like this, ultimately you’re having to update these facilities and it’s going to be the burden of the taxpayer,” Couvillon said. “Where else are we going to find that revenue? I think it’s a good move to do that.”
The first public hearing on the impact fee ordinance amendment will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7 in the Public Safety Complex at 701 Queen City Parkway in Gainesville. A second public hearing will be held on Thursday, May 21 at the same time and location. The Council will follow the hearing by voting on the ordinance.