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The Villages
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Rep. Hage co-sponsors bill to help The Villages avoid impact fee hike

Rep. Brett Hage serves in the Florida House of Representatives.

A pair of companion bills in the Florida House and Senate could provide an end run for The Villages to avoid impact fee hikes by Sumter County commissioners.

House Bill 377 and Senate Bill 750 would limit impact fee increases by local governments to 3 percent a year.

State Rep. Brett Hage, a Republican who represents The Villages, is a co-sponsor of the House bill.

Besides the increase cap, the bill also would allow a special district like The Villages of Southern Oaks to use their own impact fee credits and charge local governments for accounting fees. It also would require advance notice of at least 90 days for impact fee hikes.

Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold is expected to brief commissioners on the bills at a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Everglades Recreation Center.

Local governments collect impact fees from developers to pay for infrastructure costs such as roads. They are not a continuing tax, but a one-time charge on new projects or expansion.

A 3 percent impact fee hike means The Villages would pay about $1,000 for each single-family detached home, up less than $30 from the current rate of $972.

Last month, commissioners voted 4-1 to reject an agreement proposed by The Villages to raise fees by 40 percent to $1,372 per home. The agreement would have allowed the county to raise fees only on The Villages development and not other businesses.

Commissioners said the amount was too low and it was substantially less than the $2,430 per home recommended in a 2019 study.

Earlier, they decided to put off an impact fee hike until July due to the pandemic and its effect on local businesses. At that January meeting, construction workers and small business owners packed the meeting, claiming that an increase would threaten jobs.

If the proposed bills are enacted, they would take effect July 1, which could spur commissioners to quicker action on an increase.

Impact fees were a key issue in last year’s elections, when three challengers ousted incumbent commissioners.

When Sumter County approved a 25 percent property tax rate increase in 2019, angry homeowners said the county should raise impact fees instead of putting the burden for road costs on them. They vowed to replace commissioners who approved the hike.

The state impact fee bills also would affect Wildwood, where commissioners will vote later this month on an increase in recreation and a decrease in law enforcement impact fees.

A recent study recommended that the city nearly double its recreation impact fees over three years from $244.22 to $483.38 per residential unit.

At a meeting Monday, Wildwood Commissioner Julian Green said the impact fee bills are an example of the state usurping local government control.

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