THE ISSUE: County commission raises impact fees.

OUR OPINION: A bold move that had to happen.

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The real estate market is hot now, and that means Citrus County will experience significant growth in the future. With that growth comes the problem of how to deal with the increased burden on the county’s infrastructure.

The county commission showed some courage recently when they voted 4-1 to raise impact fees to pay for that growth. Commissioner Scott Carnahan voted against the increase.

Citrus County’s population is expected to increase by 1,200 residents a year until 2040, putting a strain on schools, roads and other facilities. The commission raised impact fees for a single-family home from the current $4,809 to $6,017. That is an increase of $1,208, and with a 30-year mortgage, as Commissioner Holly Davis said, “that is just nothing for somebody who is not in the low-income bracket.”

The fee for multi-family homes will decrease: from $3,644 to $3,322. Commissioners also added a low-income single-family home category with a fee of $4,676.

Impact fees are one-time charges on new construction to help pay for the infrastructure — roads, schools, law enforcement, parks, etc. — that growth necessitates. The new rates will take effect in 90 days.

The state requires counties to review impact fees every five years.

Raising impact fees means the burden of growth is put on those who are responsible for growth; newcomers to the county who buy new homes will pay for the infrastructure improvements, and not the current county residents. The increase is not popular with homebuilders and Realtors, who say affordable housing is already out of reach for a lot of residents, and that a year of the pandemic added to their concerns.

There was strong pressure to keep the rates the same, but commissioners made the right decision. People are going to build in Citrus and the county needs to be prepared for that growth.

Once you get behind the power curve, bridging the gap between new growth and essential services becomes a costly improbability that will result in a lesser quality of life for a community — congested roads, crowded schools, increased crime, etc. It’s pay now or pay more later.