Lake Co. leaders consider reinstating impact fees



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - After waiving impact fees on residential and commercial construction for nearly three years, Lake County leaders may be forced to raise taxes.

Since March 2010, Lake County has not collected transportation impact fees.

The fees were charged on the construction of new homes and businesses, to pay for new roads. Critics have called waiving of the fees "builder welfare."

"The people who build new construction should be helping fund the infrastructure that's needed to serve them. Should all taxpayers have to pay for that?" asked Vance Jochim of Lake County Fiscal Rangers.

Some said the county could have collected millions of dollars over the last few years if it had kept the fees in place. Now, county leaders may have to restore all or part of those fees. But some said they worried the move could have serious consequences.

"We have to be real careful that when we re-enact fees, that they're not job-killers," said Lake County Commissioner Jimmy Conner.

Conner said the suspension of impact fees contributed to millions of dollars in new construction and hundreds of new jobs. He doubts the county would have collected much money had the fees stayed in place, because he said there would have been no incentive to build. But Conner admits the county is facing another budget shortage.

"Yes. We need revenue. But I'm more concerned about jobs in the private sector right now than I am about revenue for the government," said Conner.

The County Commission will start discussions on the impact fees and the budget in December.