After almost two hours of brisk debate, county commissioners Tuesday voted 4-1 to raise impact fees for a single-family home from the current $4,809 to $6,017.
The $1,208 increase will take effect in 90 days.
The fee for multi-family homes will decrease: from $3,644 to $3,322.
The new fee schedule was the result of a last-minute discussion between Steve Lachnicht, assistant county administrator and Duncan Associates, the consultant hired to do an impact fee study.
The fee for single-family homes is lower than the $6,172 the consultant previously recommended.
The fees for transportation and roads will continue to be calculated at the current 50% formula rate and the remaining six categories at 100%.
Commission Chairman Scott Carnahan cast the sole dissenting vote and his earlier motion to keep current fees intact was defeated 3-2.
“I think we need to compete with our surrounding counties (and) I see an unstable economy headed our way,” Carnahan said.
The county is already seeing that in terms of higher gas prices, he said.
But his colleagues didn’t see it that way. They believed the county will grow and the money will be needed to fund roads, schools and other infrastructure.
An alternate motion by Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. that raised fees passed 4-1.
Commissioner Jeff Kinnard sided with Carnahan’s original motion. He panned the consultant’s report and said the numbers don’t accurately reflect the county’s projected growth.
“We have a report that I have absolutely no confidence in,” Kinnard said.
Lachnicht said he contacted the consultant and cleared up a discrepancy regarding the law enforcement fee, which helped reduce the fee hike.
Impact fees are one-time charges on new construction to pay for infrastructure, such as roads, schools and parks, that are necessitated by growth.
The county hired the consultant for $98,000 to make recommendations for new impact fee equations to reflect the growth and demands of the county. The change in equations is reflected in the additional $1,208 the consultant determined was needed to cover that growth at the current 50% and 100% ratios.
Kitchen said the consultant’s recommendations cannot be thrown out in favor of “pulling numbers out of the air with no corresponding reasoning.”
People will still build in Citrus County and there will be growth, he said. The question, he added, is how to pay for it?
Kitchen said the county also has to guard against legal challenges.
“What we’ve done here is spent $98,000 on a study that is legally defensible,” he said.
Folks who have accessory buildings on their property also got a break. Formerly, they had to pay the fee for a single-family home. But the board created a separate accessory dwelling unit category with an impact fee of $2,401.
Commissioners also asked staff to draft an ordinance that broadens the limits for accessory dwelling units to be brought back at a future meeting.
Several in the audience spoke against any increase. They also allowed that a modest increase would be palatable. If the schools and roads categories had been raised to 100%, the county was looking at an impact fee rate of over $10,000.
But that option was never seriously considered.
Stacey Worthington, president of the Citrus County Building Alliance, said the consultant’s report was flawed.
“The most glaring thing missing from the impact fee study is COVID-19,” she said. “That changed everything.”
Realtor Rob Tessmer Jr. said affordable homes are already out of reach for many and imposing higher impact fees on the cost of a new home would “crush” people who want to move here and open a business or build a home.
“If they can’t buy here, they will buy in one of our neighboring counties,” Tessmer said.