County Commission Chairman Scott Carnahan called Tuesday's discussion on proposed impact fee increases “an embarrassment” due to a less-than-professional presentation from a consultant hired by the board for $98,000 and far too many unanswered questions.
County commissioners also said the public did not have enough opportunity for input.
The board voted 5-0 to bring the matter back for a public hearing and vote at its March 23 meeting. Commissioners told staff they want a new proposed impact fee ordinance prepared that answers their own concerns and that of the public.
“This needs to go back,” Carnahan said of the proposed ordinance in front of the board Tuesday. “It needs to be cleaned up and we need to do a better job. It's as simple as that.”
But no matter what ordinance comes back, Carnahan said he already has made up his mind: no impact fee changes given the current state of the economy.
Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. said he was surprised this did not go before the Planning and Development Commission (PDC) and there was too much uncertainty right now. Nobody seemed to be on the same page, he said.
Kitchen was also not pleased the out-of-state consultant was not present at Tuesday's meeting and doesn't believe the county got its $98,000 worth.
The consultant, after technical glitches, participated in a Zoom virtual meeting but could not interact with the board.
“That's outrageous,” Kitchen said.
Several builders and Realtor representatives showed up for the agenda item and said any fee increases at this time would hurt the economy and derail the hot housing market in Citrus County by making homes less affordable. Builders, they said would be forced to pass on the higher costs to home buyers.
Stacey Worthington, president of the Citrus County Building Alliance, said she doesn't believe the public was adequately informed of impact fee changes before Tuesday's discussion.
Also, Worthington said the report was done prior to the pandemic and the assumptions made in the study was for a society that may no longer exist. Home builders, for example, are dealing with increased costs for construction materials that have added to the cost of a home, she said.
Impact fee hikes would result in even high home prices and that will effectively squeeze out the middle-class wage earners, she added.
Kelly Tedrick, president of the Realtors Association of Citrus County, said surrounding counties have lesser impact fees and any hike would have a negative effect on local home sales.
“We need to make sure we have affordable housing for all,” she said.
A couple in the audience took an opposite view and said an impact fee hike is the fair method of keeping up with county growth without raising property taxes.
The county had already adopted impact fees at 50% of the full amounts for two categories: transportation and schools.
Under that same rate structure, the consultant recommended impact fees for single-family detached homes be raised $1,370: from the current $4,809 to $6,179. The fee increase for retail/commercial would increase from $2,343 to $2,700.
Josh Wooten, president/CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is not opposed to reasonable impact fee rates. The $1,370 hike doesn't seem too bad, he said.
However, Wooten agreed the public was not fully in the loop on these proposed changes and agreed there needs to be another hearing.
“I think communication was lacking on this,” Wooten said.