Use it or lose it? – An opinion

By Chip Ross
Fernandina Beach City Commissioner
January 11, 2019 10:00 a.m.

Large expenditures generally capture the interest of most City residents. And without exception, the expenditure of millions of dollars of impact fees will likely cause great discussion in the next few months. From my perspective, starting a conversation using the same knowledge-base of facts before delving into expenditure discussions of City Impact Fees is generally helpful. So I would like to explain to the public, in general, some salient information before the social media blitz and coffee clutches begin these discussions.

City Commissioner Chip Ross

Here are some basic facts. Impact fees are fees collected from new construction only. They are not part of your real estate tax bill, they are one-time fees. They are collected to provide funding for additional facilities for the additional growth added to the City. Impact fees must be spent within 6 years, otherwise they are to be returned to the payer.

At present, approximately $2.3 million sits in the City’s Parks and Recreation Capital Expansion Fund (310) (impact fee fund). Another $1.3 million is projected by staff to be added to that fund by the end of the current fiscal year with another $1.46 million added in the following year. Parks and Recreation impact fee receipts may ONLY be used for park and recreation capital improvements – new construction and/or land acquisition for the expansion or creation of parks.

Upon review of the City’s 2020 Vision Plan, previous budgets, and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting minutes, multiple projects have been proposed, often funded, but never built. Those projects include

  • Playgrounds at the soccer fields;
  • The second half of the Main Beach board walk;
  • Acquiring additional land to build a downtown waterfront park;
  • Building a downtown waterfront park;
  • Building beach walk overs at the beach accesses that do not have walk overs;
  • A columbarium (urn burial building) at Bosque Bello Cemetery;
  • Fully funding the Simmons Road Park even if the $200,000 grant is not obtained;
  • Improvements at the Richio (Peck) Field that include restrooms, a walking path, and a larger pavilion; and
  • Utilizing the recently proposed impact fee increases to fund park land acquisition to expand the Greenway and create passive parks.

The topic of the Five-Year Capital Improvements for the City is a discussion item at the next City Commission meeting on January 15, 2019. And it will also be discussed again at the City Commission Visioning Session on January 29, 2019.

Funding is available to build many of the above projects that have been talked about for many years. I welcome any input on impact fee expenditures. Your City Commissioners need to hear from you.

Please direct your suggestions concerning this piece to my email address: Commissioner Chip Ross at [email protected] or any other City Commissioner.
Below is a spread sheet which proposes how the above, previously discussed projects, could be funded now and built in the next 2 years. I look forward to your input. Let’s use our funds and build our projects!

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10 Responses to Use it or lose it? – An opinion

  1. Colleen Payne says:

    Very well said, appreciate the detailed explanation.

  2. Bob Keane says:

    Well presented!
    How much of current balance expires and when under 6 year rule?

  3. Montieth Stewart says:

    Thank you for the detail commissioner. “Use it or Lose it?”, do you consider it lost if it goes back to the tax payer? as you note it does. DGMW, put me down for funding overdue Peck Improvements and Main Beach Board Walk expansion, there is a lot coming that way in the coming years.

  4. Trudie Richards says:

    The Parks and Rec Advisory Board, of which I’m a member, also recommended on Tuesday that we explore options for a leash-free dog park, which I believe could also be funded by impact fees.

  5. Lou Goldman says:

    I’d like t see a tournament class skateboard park built just north of the existing skateboard park at Main Beach.

  6. tony crawford says:

    Thank you, this is the information that never seems to get to the reading public. You put it in a concise and understandable manor. Each one of the mentioned projects look to be worthwhile and would only enhance our City.

  7. Amy Petroy says:

    I would like to know the definition of “new construction” as stated in the first sentence, second paragraph? Reason — Impact fees are currently assessed to all businesses big and small looking to come to the city….. those that are just renovating (not necessary NEW) a building, or location and have no new impact to the utilities etc… are assessed very large impact fees. This is very discouraging to business (especially small) and usually detrimental to their survival in the first years. Big business can get around it buying off, paying fines or getting variances for other business plan items etc…. I paid over $15,000 in impact fees in 2014 — and if I were to try and do it one year later over $25,000 would be assessed. I did a renovation…. with no impact to utilities or infrastructure (water, electric, streets already in use and hooked up previously – no city effort required) and it was not “new construction” it was renovation. Once again – what is the definition of “new construction” and is there any study or understanding on how the impact fees — IMPACT small businesses from coming here to make our community unique?

  8. Dave Lott says:

    Amy, Parks & Recreation impact fees which are the fees that Chip is discussing are ONLY assessed against residential construction, not commercial. As you state, there are other impact fees assessed against commercial establishments if there are increases in capacity or the type of usage. Any such increase may not have an immediate, noticeable impact but it does bite into the capacity of the existing infrastructure which, at some point in time, will require expansion and that is the justification for the fees. .

  9. Polly Evans says:

    Thank you for this nice explanation of how things are. Be nice to see some real action. Ashamed to think this money to be used , but could be lost after the 6 year period. Thank you again.

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