Councilman Clark to sponsor new Mobility Plan fee moratorium legislation

Councilman Clark to sponsor new Mobility Plan fee moratorium legislation

Bill to be introduced Feb. 12 will place three-year moratorium on mobility fees

 By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

Just four months after a yearlong Mobility Plan fee moratorium ended, a bill for a new waiver is on its way to city council.

District 3 Councilman Richard Clark is sponsoring the new legislation, which General Council Dylan Reingold expects to file on Feb. 6 for introduction at the Feb. 12 council meeting. The proposed legislation would place a three-year moratorium on fees collected on new development required under the 2030 Mobility Plan, essentially extending the yearlong moratorium that ended Oct. 19.

In addition to the increased time period of three years, another significant piece of the new bill has to do with subdivision plats (a plat is a map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of a piece of land that includes road right of ways, easements, utilities access, etc.).

“With the new bill, if you get plat approval and build [under the waiver], you are grandfathered in for any home permit you would need to receive here on out. You would not have to pay the mobility fee [for each home after the waiver period ended]. With the previous law, you would have had to build your single family home during the waiver period,” said General Council Dylan Reingold, who drafted the new legislation.

Curtis Hart, Government Affairs Chairman for the Northeast Florida Builder’s Association, said he spoke with Clark to ensure that this part left no ambiguity. “That was actually a part of the original waiver, but it was not interpreted correctly. So I wanted to make sure that it was clearly written in there this time.”

Clark said the economy is driving his bill.

“There’s one single, biggest reason that I’m sponsoring this bill: Getting people slinging hammers and pouring concrete again. For me, its literally about putting people back to work,” said Clark, noting that, with the exception of Hart, who offered minor input, he had not conferred with any other developers in the creation of the bill.

A draft of the legislation reads, in part: “…the time period for allowing a waiver on mobility fees expired without sufficient time for such waiver to assist in encouraging economic growth in the City…in order to continue to promote and encourage economic growth in the City…it is necessary to establish a new period for the waiver of mobility fees…”

Regarding some recent positive economic indicators showing improved employment and construction figures since the last waiver was enacted, Clark said he “disagree[s] in its totality. An economic indicator does not put someone back to work. Margins in banks are so radically tiny; they are still holding properties in foreclosure. I’m talking about actually being able to do a project and put people to work. I don’t care what anyone says is happening across the country, it doesn’t add up for putting someone to work here in Jacksonville. This is the right thing to do for our city.”

Toney Sleiman, CEO/President of Sleiman Enterprises and a vocal advocate for a moratorium agreed.

“In these economic times, retailers in the industries that I’m dealing with have told me that they’re doing expansion and new deals in markets that have moratoriums on impact fees, and therefore creating jobs. I’ve got mom and pop businesses that are dying. We have to create jobs,” said Sleiman, who was not aware that Clark was working on a bill and was not involved in its drafting. “If the economy were booming, then great, let’s have a fee. But it’s not.”

Clark’s bill will likely encounter significant opposition. Council members Lori Boyer, Jim Love and John Cresembeni, among others, went on record in October saying it would take strong data to convince them to vote for a new bill. The Oct. 9 city council meeting brought 40 community members speaking in favor of ending the moratorium, many 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. Also among them was Mike Field, from Transform Jax.

“The positive economic indicators in regards to commercial and housing development simply do not warrant shifting the financial burden away from a developer and on to the backs of the general taxpayer in order to pay for the infrastructure needed to construct greenfield development when there is such a ripe inventory of fiscally responsible infill available throughout our city. The previous moratorium did not work. The people of Jacksonville do not need to be saddled with a 3-year tax increase just to continue a failed experiment that ultimately only benefited a very small segment of land developers who already had financially viable projects in their pipeline,” said Field regarding the new bill.

The 2030 Mobility Plan reduces vehicle miles traveled and encourages alternate modes of transportation by “incentivizing” development in the urban core where infrastructure already exists to support growth. It integrates land development with transportation planning and has an impact fee system that funnels money from development back into the same area where the development took place to be used for capital projects.

The biggest concern of Field and others opposed to a moratorium is that without a mobility fee, there is limited funding for capital improvements. But Clark said that is not a significant issue.

“The mobility fee contributes a very tiny percentage of our capital improvement dollars. The vast majority of dollars for capital improvement projects comes from our general fund, and the predominant source for that is our tax dollars,” Clark said.

After its Feb. 12 introduction, the bill will be open to public hearing at the Feb. 26 council meeting. Reingold said that it could possibly go to committee on March 4 and 5 and then go up for vote as early as March 12.

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One Response to Councilman Clark to sponsor new Mobility Plan fee moratorium legislation

  1. Jeffrey Sutton February 4, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Moving developer fees onto the tax payers has proven not only a failure at promoting new developments it feeds into continuing the cycle of bankrupting the local community. St. Johns county has the highest North Florida development fees and the highest rate of development. Mr. Clark I am sure knows this as we already had a moratorium fail. Developers should bear the costs and profits from their developments. Tax payers do not need to subsidize the size of the developers Mercedes.

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