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Latest Version of the Mobility Fee Waiver: A Compromise

April 8, 2013

By Steve Patterson

Stalled legislation that would waive some developer fees to help Jacksonville’s construction industry is resurfacing after critics and backers accepted compromises suggested by a City Council member.

Three council committees are scheduled to meet jointly Monday to debate a new version of a bill (2013-94) that had divided people involved in development and groups who want bicycle and pedestrian facilities the fees help pay for.

Councilman Richard Clark had originally proposed a three-year waiver of the city’s “mobility fee,” which charges fees from developers based on how each project is expected to affect roads and other transportation systems in their part of town.

Councilman John Crescimbeni said Friday he plans to offer a substitute version of that bill, which was tabled in March after strong lobbying by backers of the fee system. If it’s approved by the three committees, the new version could be voted on by the full council Tuesday.

Crescimbeni’s version of the bill shrinks the waiver period to 18 months and then sets new limits meant to motivate developers to start projects soon.

After a three-month “ramp-up” period when the waiver wouldn’t be in effect — that would let companies get ready, Crescimbeni said — the city would waive 75 percent of the normal fee for projects permitted in the next six months.

If the project was permitted after that six months, the waiver would cover only 50 percent of the fee, then after another six months the waiver would drop to just 25 percent.

That scaled-down offer represented a compromise that Crescimbeni said advocates on both sides told him they could live with.

“From where I sit, I think they walk away with something they wanted and didn’t have to surrender to something they didn’t,” he said.

Advocates seemed to appreciate that.

“I think John has come up with a very good idea that both sides can agree. … None of us got exactly what we wanted, but we got something,” said Curtis Hart, a developer and lobbyist who was part of talks Crescimbeni held to hear out both sides. “I’m hoping it just passes. Since you’ve got a consensus of those for and those against, the council will, I hope, just take up the bill and pass it out.”

Under the substitute version, the fees that aren’t waived would be steered first to accounts that finance bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented projects listed in a city work plan. If those are fully funded, the rest of the fees collected would go to other transportation projects.

The city set up the fee system in 2011 and quickly waived it in hopes a recession-scarred building industry would regain some strength.

The first 12-month waiver period expired in October.

The city waived $3.2 million worth of fees in that year, but couldn’t be sure what it had truly given up. The fee system includes credits that would have lowered some developer costs, but weren’t calculated since they weren’t going to matter.

To get the waiver, Crescimbeni’s bill would require developers to complete a more complicated fee calculation.

Clark said he hasn’t seen Crescimbeni’s legislation and can’t comment on it but feels he was right to offer the original bill.

“I have every intention of moving on and supporting the construction industry 100 percent,” he said.

All copy taken from the Florida Times Union’s jacksonville.com. Source: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-04-06/story/jacksonville-council-panels-hear-new-version-contested-mobility-fee

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