Lee County considers raising impact fees

Author: Mike Walcher

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- People building new houses will soon pay thousands more dollars in impact fees.

That means more money will go to roads and schools. Critics say commissioners should ask for even more money, but the building industry says any hike will hurt the housing recovery.

Those who oppose low impact fees say the county has lost $30 million the past two years. They claim that money could pay to more quickly improve Homestead Road in Lehigh Acres, Alico Road in south Lee County, and Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach.

Lee County denies that, adding that the transportation department is figuring out what Tuesday’s action means to road plans.

The Lee County School District says the loss of fees means its construction budget is wiped out.

On Tuesday, several people had harsh words for commissioners.

“I can tell you, that our infrastructure is not improving. It’s getting worse,” said Jim English.

However, the housing industry turned out to the meeting in full force, with about a hundred people, pressing commissioners to keep the fees low.

Some brought hardhats with stickers, saying “housing equals jobs.”

Builders claim even a small hike in fees will hurt new home sales.

“When you raise it a thousand dollars, you eliminate those people who can afford it the least, and particularly in places like Lehigh Acres,” said Richard Durling, Marvin Development.

Four of the five commissioners refused to boost the fees, back to their former levels. Instead, they tentatively approved moving them to 45 percent.

The school district says if fees had gone back to 100 percent, the money could have paid off the loans on a new high school.

The next step is a public hearing on March 3rd. Then, commissioners will vote to stick with the 45 percent level, or adjust it. The new fee is expected to last for three years.

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