By Erika Webb
DeLand city leaders want to reduce the impact of fully reinstating building impact fees.
DeLand City Commissioners voted unanimously June 17 to implement a step-up process to phase back in the suspended general government building, police, fire, and parks and recreation until they are fully restored by Oct. 1, 2015.
Water development and sewer development impact fees for new residential and commercial construction, which were reduced by 25 percent and 50 percent respectively will be fully restored on Oct. 1.
In September 2011, the moratorium and reduction ordinances were adopted as measures to provide an economic incentive for creating jobs, and spurring activity in the construction industry, according to city documents.
With the expirations looming, city staff contacted several area cities as well as the County of Volusia and discovered many, which also reduced or suspended impact fees to spur economic development, are gradually reinstating fees completely while some are reinstating fees to a modest level, assistant city manager Dale Arrington reported.
"We thought the most thoughtful thing we could do was align ourselves with what is being done in the DeLand area, like the County of Volusia," Ms. Arrington said.
Suspension of two-thirds of all general government, building, fire, and parks and recreation impact fees for one year -- Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2014, followed by a one-third suspension the following year and complete restoration of those impact fees beginning Oct. 1, 2015, is very closely aligned with the approach taken by Volusia County, the assistant county manager explained.
The only difference, she noted, is the county began and will end its program in July. The City of DeLand's moratorium went into effect and will end in the month of October.
Ms. Arrington anticipated the question on everyone's mind was: Have impact fee suspensions and reductions had an effect on permits?
"I wish I could answer that question definitively," she said. "I can't say if the number of impact fees caused the number of building permits to increase."
Through the first four months of 2013, permits have been issued for 88 houses in DeLand with an estimated value of $26.7 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In the first four months of 2012, permits were issued for 47 houses with an estimated value of $13.8 million.
Mark Bines, vice president in Central Florida of Kolter Homes, and Bob Fitzsimmons, CEO at Gallery Homes, urged the commission to take a slow approach to restoring fees.
"We're seeing a lot of lots being gobbled up," Mr. Bines said. "We're asking for graduated restoration ... or you can leave it all at zero if you want."
Mr. Fitzsimmons agreed with Ms. Arrington that it's not clear whether the reduction and moratorium led to increased permits, but said the actions taken have helped.
"I was able to lower prices in Glenwood Springs over $12,000 with what the city did and what the county did, and it immediately spurred sales," Mr. Fitzsimmons said. "Yes, the industry's a lot better off than it was three years ago, but we're not healthy yet."
The amount of impact fees not collected for general government building, fire, police, and parks and recreation for fiscal year 2011-12 was about $330,000; the amount not collected for fiscal year 2012 to present is about $202,000, according to the city.
Uncollected impact fees for water and sewer totaled nearly $439,000 for fiscal year 2011-12 and nearly $286,000 for fiscal year 2012 to present.
"Certainly the City of DeLand's permit activity has shown our residential activity to be the highest in the county," Mayor Bob Apgar said. "Both residential and commercial permit activity are better than our population fair share for the past two years."
Continuation of a partial reduction in impact fees supports regional high value construction activity and anticipated projects within the city, according to the report provided to the commission by staff.
"We want to do everything possible to make sure that momentum continues," the mayor added.
In other business, commissioners voted unanimously to permit tailgating activities for Stetson University Hatter football to take place in seven city parking lots near Spec Martin Stadium.
Mike Grebosz, assistant to the city manager, assured members of the commission the DeLand Police Department and Stetson's public safety department have been working together on tailgating and parking logistics and all involved are "on the same page."
Mayor Apgar expressed concern about having enough handicapped parking spaces available within the designated areas to accommodate the number of game attendees who may need those spots.
Stetson representatives said there will be shuttles from parking areas and assistance given by game staff to any who require help getting to and from the stadium and stands.
Jeff Altier, Stetson athletics director, told commissioners that in addition to the 560 city parking spots he anticipates using Stetson property for parking.
"We'll have spots above what the code is," Mr. Altier said.
Stetson representatives told the commission that those working at Stetson games will use the DOT parking lot south of the stadium. There will be no tailgating permitted there. Once admitted to the stadium, fans will not be allowed reentry without purchasing another ticket. Stetson staff will be responsible for ensuring compliance to the school's tailgating policy, a copy of which will be mailed to each season ticket holder and distributed, along with a parking map, to Stetson students.
The seven parking lots will have port-o-lets and trash receptacles, but Stetson staff will ultimately be responsible for parking lot cleanliness.
All state and local laws regarding the consumption of alcohol must be observed in the tailgating area, and kegs, party balls as well as use of devices to accelerate alcohol consumption -- including drinking games -- are strictly prohibited, according to the Stetson Athletics Stadium Tailgating Policy.
Admittance and parking in the designated tailgating areas will be determined through the parking request registration process and parking passes will issued be on first-come, first-served basis.
DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus said parking passes for handicapped spaces may not be sold.
"They have to be generically open on a first-come, first-served basis," Mr. Pleus said.