Mobility Plan fee moratorium ended Oct. 19

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

The sun officially set on the 2030 Mobility Plan fee moratorium Oct. 19, but developer Toney Sleiman continues to advocate for a new moratorium bill, leaving the plan’s proponents on guard.
The one-year moratorium was adopted to stimulate growth by lifting impact fees on new development. But not everyone thinks it has been effective enough to warrant an extension.
Motivated by rumors the Oct. 9 city council meeting agenda might include an extension bill, 40 individuals came in support of ending the moratorium. Their biggest concern: Without a mobility fee, there is limited funding for capital improvements. Many spoke on behalf of citizens’ groups, including Riverside Avondale Preservation, San Marco Preservation Society, Springfield Preservation and Restoration, Urban Core CPAC (Citizen Planning Advisory Committee), Greater Arlington/Beaches CPAC and the Bicycle Pedestrian Action Committee.
“Anything can still happen with this bill and we wanted to make sure the council knows there is opposition to an extension both on economic and philosophical terms,” said San Marco-based developer Doug Skiles, who spearheads the opposition.
No one has advocated for an extension during council meetings, the mobility fee was not addressed at the Oct. 23 meeting and, as of press time, no bill had been filed. But Sleiman has been clear in his intention to seek an extension.
“Another year moratorium is the smart thing to do in this economy,” Sleiman said. “It makes no sense letting it die, or extending it for less than a year, or just having a reduction in the impact fee; those are half-way
measures.”
Proponents for both sides have lobbied council and the Mayor’s office since there is a possibility that a new bill could be introduced. However, neither the administration nor any council member has declared a willingness to sponsor new fee moratorium
legislation.
“The administration would not initiate an extension of the moratorium at this time, as it is a council matter,” said Jessica Deal, Mayor Brown’s city council liaison.
At a recent Southeast CPAC meeting, Brown stated, “We always knew it [the moratorium] was a one year plan.”
That aligns with feedback from council members Jim Love, Lori Boyer, John Crescimbeni, Warren Jones, Bill Bishop, Bill Gulliford and Stephen Joost. They, in addition to Greg Anderson, Ray Holt, Clay Yarborough and Matt Schellenberg emphasized that, if a bill is taken up, they would carefully weigh the data before deciding (other council had not been contacted by press time).
The data does not strongly support an extension. Of 124 mobility fee applications totaling $17.5 million, only 27 have been permitted (21 percent). Fees waived equal $3.1 million.
However, 17 waiver applications were filed within the first 11 days of October compared to 15 in September, according to Stephen Smith, who compiles this data for the city.
Some council members suggested this last minute rush might indicate the moratorium was not used effectively. But Mike Herzberg, Director of Development for Sleiman Enterprises, noted that projects are not counted in the waiver figures until they are issued a permit, which can be up to six months after the moratorium ended. Therefore, these October projects could possibly increase the moratorium waiver totals.
Additionally, Sleiman argued that mobility fees dissuade some national developers.
“There are companies that are only building new stores in areas where impact fees are waived,” said Sleiman, pointing to RaceTrac Petroleum. Trey Spivey, RaceTrac’s real estate manager, confirmed that an impact fee would likely limit the number of stores they would build in Jacksonville.
“We’ve got to focus our capital on where we can get the most bang for the buck,” said Spivey. It is noteworthy that RaceTrac has built only one store locally during the moratorium period and it was not eligible for a waiver.
While some developers may not embrace the mobility fee, its return will help fund capital improvement projects throughout the city. For Riverside/Avondale, that means a streetcar connecting to Downtown. San Marco would see the widening of Philips Highway. But proponents are aware these projects could be in jeopardy again if the council can be convinced to revisit the issue.
“We’re happy to see the moratorium end and will be paying close attention to make sure the community will have an opportunity to respond if another bill is introduced,” Skiles said.
Note: Southeast CPAC has invited Herzberg and Skiles to present the issues on November 26 at 6:30 p.m., St. Vincent’s Southside Hospital, 4201 Belfort Road. Contact Rosemary Wesolowski at 904-255-8261 or [email protected] for information. To learn more about the Mobility Plan: http://www.coj.net/departments/
planning-and-development/community-planning-division/transportation-
planning/mobility-plan.aspx

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