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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City KO's Utility Impact Fees:
Will declare 1 year moratorium

Lake City, FL - Monday evening's Lake City, City Council meeting concluded with a bang, as City Manager Wendell Johnson suggested to the Council that they institute a one-year moratorium on utility impact fees. Looking to spur construction in areas which are served by the Greater Lake City Regional Utility, CM Johnson told the Council that he thought this might spur the economy.


City Manager Wendell Johnson got serious last night as he looked to spike economic development in the City and County served by the City utility.

City Manager Johnson explained, "This year there was just a little over $1 million in new growth. It [the impact fee] has not been creating a lot of new revenue anyway... It's an attempt and a means to generate a little spike in growth."

Mr. Johnson continued, "We've got three or four good projects coming to town. They're on properties that have already impacted our water and sewer system. They would not be affected by this. Looking back over the last two years we have not had a very noticeable amount of activity."

City Councilman George Ward said he thought that suspending impact fees was a good idea because it could add jobs and increase local purchases, while at the same time add to the tax base. "I think in the long run it could be good for the city... By this time next year we should know whether it's worked or not. We will know whether to extend it or let it stop," he said.

Enough in reserve to last a year, but with conditions

CM Johnson explained that last year the city spent $324,000 of impact fee money. The trust fund balance is a little over $300,000. "We have money in the trust fund to use for any potential expansion -- within reason. If we didn't have any money in the trust fund it might be a little bit different... We're pretty much covered for a year. After that, it's a different story," he said.

Mayor Witt told the Council, "Twelve months would be a good time frame to see where we are at."

CM Johnson said that the standard is going to have to be 12 months.  "They are going to have to be well underway -- in other words you can't come in the last months and apply. I've seen that trick pulled before years ago. They have to do it within a reasonable time. I think we are going to get a good response from it... We'll have a noticeable spike for permits."

CM Johnson continued: "I think there are going to have to be some conditions attached to it to make sure it's not taken advantage of. We're putting it out there to benefit developers to get a little bit of a deduction in the cost of development."

Mayor Witt, "I think we need to have some guidelines."

City Attorney Darby will be working on the ordinance. It is anticipated that it will be ready to present to the Council at the next meeting. The moratorium is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2012.

How much can be saved?

After the meeting Utility Director, Dave Clanton, told the Observer that the impact fees to hook up a new home to the city utility would be $4,170.

Mr. Clanton said that a large business could incur utility impact fees as large as $60,000 or $70,000 and that during the moratorium these fees would not be charged to the developer.

Epilogue

Around the turn-of-the-century the University of Florida packed its bags and moved from Lake City to Gainesville. The reason was water.

With the Olive Garden moving ahead to build a restaurant in Lake City, the city fathers are apparently offering them an olive branch with this impact fee moratorium. 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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