By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - County staff will be working on a new plan to present to county commissioners that lowers non-residential traffic impact fees, but first, it's going to be study time.
During the Oct. 23 meeting, Indian River County commissioners heard a report from Bob Keating, community development director, about ideas to keep non-residential transportation impact fees low and lower.
Commissioners made clear their desire to have a scope of service study, lowering fees for commercial industries, making changes to the fee for existing businesses that want to expand, all with the premise that whatever the staff brings back is legally defensible in court.
Commissioner Joe Flescher called the levels of some of the county's impact fees "draconian" and urged staff to find a way to remove a financial burden from existing businesses looking to grow and flourish in the community.
Some of the ideas staff has already presented include consolidating impact fee categories to reduce overall fees, using the studies to update the numeric variables used to determine a business' impact and its resulting impact fee.
The final suggestion, not recommended by staff, but that sounded appealing to several commissioners, was to flip the formula used for calculating impact fees upside down. The rates would then be calculated using a theory that retail businesses crop up after residential homes are, meaning residential causes commercial development, not the other way around.
Also, after the initial construction, residential vehicles are the ones that occupy the roadways, not big construction trucks.
Following that theory, lower traffic impact fees should be applied to non-residential development, and a higher traffic impact fee should be applied to residential, because they use the roads more.
The theory, called "causation," is unproven, Mr. Keating said, although it has been implemented in Marion County recently.
Commissioners were quite interested in the theory, but held back from fully throwing their support behind it.
It has been three years since an impact fee study was conducted, and by ordinance, it is time to have a study once again, according to a staff report.
A study will cost between $100,000 and $150,000, and will be paid for using the impact fee administration line item in the budget, so no further taxpayer funds will be used for the research.
For more information about upcoming county government meetings, visit www.ircgov.com.