Monday, December 14, 2015

Hillsborough County Developing Mobility Fee to Replace Concurrency and Impact Fee

As I wrote about with my colleagues recently, Hillsborough County is developing a mobility fee:
These fees are levied on development to pay for the development's impacts on offsite public facilities. While more familiar mechanisms like impact fees and concurrency focus on roads, mobility fees are intended to pay for even more forms of transportation infrastructure, including that used by vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users. Pasco County was the first county in the state to adopt a mobility fee in 2011, and a handful of other local governments have followed suit, including the City of Jacksonville and Osceola County.
These fees come while Hillsborough County is focused on a number of transportation funding mechanisms, including Go Hillsborough, a half-cent sales tax that would be earmarked for transportation.

While staff has reported that this fee will replace both concurrency and the impact fee, the mobility fee is currently proposed at a rate that will be three to ten times higher than today's impact fee. New details are emerged recently through a "Terms Sheet" that outlines the key terms of a future mobility fee ordinance. Another recent update explained that the mobility fee will likely even affect ongoing projects that might initially seem to be "vested" against the new fees:
The Term Sheet, as drafted, subjects Proportionate Share Agreements approved after January 1, 2016 to the mobility fee. The Term Sheet also proposes new limitations for the amendment of both existing Development Agreements as well as Development of Regional Impact (DRI) Agreements. Consequently, it is unclear how these agreements will be processed in the near and long term. 
Obtaining extensions of agreements for ongoing projects may become difficult in the future. As drafted, the Term Sheet does not allow agreements to be extended, and mobility fees must be paid for all future development after the current expiration date.
Many questions remain, including how to treat the millions in credits that developers have received from projects where the offsite transportation improvements that they constructed cost more than the impact fees that the developers would otherwise have to pay. More details will emerge over the next 6-8 weeks, with a workshop scheduled to for staff to brief the Board of County Commissioners in February.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Are Florida's Rural Landowners Bearing Too Much of the Burden of Protected Species?

This week's Business Observer had an opinion piece that's worth a look. In it, Adrian Moore argues that Florida's rural landowners are bearing an unfair burden in managing Florida's listed and endangered species. He says, "[i]t is safe to say that virtually every farm of any kind in the region will be in the watershed of at least one new endangered species. Everyday farming activities that create sediments or runoff, or use fertilizers or pesticides, impact a watershed to some extent and thus all may come under restrictions to protect habitat."

Mr. Moore argues that the management techniques for these species are becoming more restrictive in Florida, as opposed to some other states, such as Texas. He writes:
The Texas approach combines:

- A government task force of state and local agencies that includes both environmental and economic goals to balance protection of species with economic costs.

- Integration of high-quality scientific research on species, habitat and the costs and effectiveness of protection options. - Conservation plans based on voluntary, market-based approaches similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program in which state and local agencies share property owners’ cost of protecting habitat for endangered species and provide technical assistance.

- Confidentiality for landowners to protect them from punitive federal regulations if they comply with an approved conservation plan.
Mr. Moore's approach is worth considering. Landowners should take a look at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission's Imperiled Species Management Plan. The October 2015 draft plan is a good place to start in understanding what protected species may be on a property and how that species is being managed.