Thursday August 22nd, 2019 6:22PM

Gainesville likely to hike impact fees

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

GAINESVILLE – The Gainesville City Council will hold the first of two required public hearings next week as the city moves to increase Development Impact Fees by just over 76-percent.  The increase, if approved, would be the first hike in the fee since 2006.

The current residential Impact Fee that is collected when a residential building permit is issued is $1589.81; the new fee would increase $1213.10, to $2802.91.

City Planning Consultant Jerry Weitz explained the numbers behind the fee increase to members of the city council at their work session Thursday morning.  “This is not a tax; it’s not a recurring payment; it’s a one-time fee for public facilities.”

“The city charges impact fees for public safety (police and fire services) and also parks and recreation,” Weitz said.  “This is a one-time fee.  Once you pay that fee you’re good.”

Weitz differentiated between impact fees collected at the time of construction and the annual property taxes paid on existing development: property taxes fund daily operations and maintenance of those agencies; impact fees go to the expansion of existing services.

Community and Economic Development Director Rusty Ligon listed items recently acquired by the city from impact fees: the new ladder truck for the fire department, the new police department firing range, the Frances Meadows Center playground and pavilion, the new playground equipment at Wilshire Trails, and the cost of the soon-to-be constructed skate park in Gainesville’s midtown area.

Weitz told council members an increase in impact fees was overdue.  “The truth is, we set the fee back in 2006…and we arbitrarily set them very low for public safety…we only charged about 25-percent of what we could have justified.”

He said in retrospect, “If I had it to do over again we might have tried to push the (city) council then for a little bit more…and it’s kind of hard to recover from that.” 

Weitz said the under-collection since 2006 is the reason for the delay in the city building fire station #5.  “We don’t have that fire station yet and we called for it some time ago.”

Ligon said the low fees helped the city during the Recession a decade ago to keep some building activity in place, but things have changed dramatically since.  “We have set records since that time with growth and development.”

According to 24/7 Wall Street, Gainesville’s population growth rate leads all cities in Georgia: 12.3% compared to a state average of 8.3%.

Weitz said comparably sized communities in our area charge much higher impact fees.  “The per unit impact fee in Milton (north Fulton County) is $7700.”

Ligon added, “We believe people in the city have a high expectation for a level of service and it’s incumbent on us to provide that.”

To view the measure under consideration and its details click here.

The first public hearing will be held at the Gainesville Public Safety Complex on Tuesday, May 7th, beginning at 5:30 p.m.; the second will be on May 21st.

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