By Harry Straight
OF THE SENT4EL ITrFF
TALLAHASSEE Trying to write growth-man-
agement laws in a state whose population is expect-
ed to swell by 250,000 residents each year has put
the 1983 Legislature in a dilemma.
Everyone agrees that growth should pay its own
way, but nobody seems to be able to agree on how.
For instance, House leaders like Speaker Lee Mof-
fltt, D-Tampa, who six months ago touted a series of
programs to cope with growth, now say nothing will
be done this year except to gather information.
But even that information is forcing lawmakers to
change their focus.
One planning expert surprised a Senate subcom-
mittee last week by announcing that the average
new home built in Florida costs local governments
more than $20,400 in capital outlay.
That's just the price of new buildings and equip-
ment needed to provide government services not
employees or routine maintenance, said James E.
Frank, associate professor of urban and regional
planning at Florida State University.
Lawmakers were even more surprised to learn
that nearly 80 percent of the buyers of new homes
were Florida residents, not newcomers.
Those facts strike at the heart of one of local gov-
ernment's shining hopes for financing growth im-
pact fees on new development and construction.
Local officials often consider impact fees political-
ly safe because they can be sold to voters as a way
of making new residents pay their share of the cost
of new services, such as. roads, utilities, schools,
parks and police and fire protection.
While most legislators agree that the laws allow-
ing local governments to levy the fees need only mi-
nor changes, there is strong sentiment to bring the
idea to the state level, where no impact fees exist.
The idea is to make growth pay for such services
as state prisons and health-care facilities.
Impact fees are "the best idea we have short of
putting a toll gate at the Florida-Georgia border,"
said Sen. Richard Langley, R-Clermont.
But experts told the Senate subcommittee on
growth last week that newcomers generally buy ex-
isting homes, thus avoiding any direct impact fees.
Newcomers will pay indirectly in the form of high-
er housing costs, said James Nicholas, professor of
economics at Florida Atlantic University.
Simple economics dictates that as impact fees
raise the price of new housing, existing homes be-
come more valuable.
"But it's dead wrong to say that (impact fees are)
just for newcomers," Nicholas said.
-4 The Orlando Sentinel, Monday, May 16, 1983
,,,Growth is more complicated
than simply the migration of out-
of-staters into Florida, Nicholas
said. It results just as much from
a'Florida worker who gets a pro-
motion, has children and decides
to buy a bigger house, he said.
Thanks to growth, Floridians
make more money, are better
dedicated, better housed, live
f6rnger and suffer less unemploy-
ment than residents of most other
.But so far, Nicholas and Frank
testified before the subcommittee,
property tax revenue from new
development has failed to keep up
with the demand for services:
- 0 Over the last 10 years; while
the state population jumped by 3
million residents, the amount of
money spent on streets, sewers,
parks and similar projects has
..-, About 32 percent of all roads
are. structurally deficient, while
20 percent are over capacity. The
cost to bring them up to stan-
dards is $15 billion over the next
Florida needs to spend $9
billion on schools during the same
Sewers will cost $5 billion to
In Orange County, for example,
an average home valued for tax-
ing purposes at $40,000 generates
about $2,709 in various impact
fees and taxes for specific ser-
vices, or about one-fifth of the
$20,400 what the average home
generates in need, according to
In Sarasota County, planners
say they will need $174 million
for capital construction over the
next six years to counter new
If they decide to build now and
pay for it by borrowing the mo-
ey, they'll face a yearly debt pay-
ment of $23.3 million for 20 years.
Other potential revenue sources
are limited. Increasing motor-fuel
taxes by 1 percent would raise
only $1.1 million. A 2 percent
tourist development tax would
raise only $1.3 million. Even a
$1,500 impact fee on each new
dwelling would raise only $4.8
Saraanta would have to slan
expected to need.
It's either that or increase prop-
erty taxes by 3.91 mills, according
to an analysis done by Frank and
others. A mill is $1 of tax for each
$1,000 of taxable property value.
Even the recently enacted in-
crease in the state gasoline tax
doesn't meet all the needs for
roads, economists said.
For instance, the average resi-
dent takes enough car trips a day
to create $3,750 worth of road
construction a year. The gasoline
tax from that same person is
$76.65 a year.
At that rate, it would take 27
years for the owners of a single-
family home to pay for the wear
and tear their cars cause to
streets. But local governments
constantly must build and main-
tain the streets.
Palm Beach County now
charges $300 per dwelling for
road impact. Broward County
charges $153 to $486 per new
dwelling for parks.
Florida law lets local govern-
ments charge the fees as long as
they are directly related to the
cost of services and are spent
only on those services.
But almost every attempt by a
local government to impose an
impact fee is challenged in court
by home builders and developers,
who argue that the cost is unfair
and simply passed along to home
Those court battles cost about
$500,000 each, Nicholas said.
"We can save ourselves a lot of
time and money if the Legislature
puts some rational thinking into
the impact fee question," he said.
Neither the House nor the Sen-
ate is expected to come up with
any substantive legislation on
growth management this year.
But that hasn't stopped the in-
formation-gathering because leg-
islative leaders hope that will
lead to major new growth laws
Supporters of impact fees want
the Legislature to clarify Florida's
laws so that local governments
would have clear-cut guidelines.
Still, no bills have been offered
this year that would do that.