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As Expected, Flagler County Suspends $1,707-a-Home Building Tax for 2 Years

| October 1, 2012

Home builders in Flagler County hope a moratorium on impact fees, the one-time tax on new construction, will light up their activity. (Christopher Robin Baker)

Facing a room sprawling with builders, developers and real estate professionals, the Flagler County Commission voted 4-1 Monday morning to suspend for two years two building taxes–the transportation and the park impact fees–as a modest gesture toward the battered building industry. The county hopes that the moratorium will spur builders back to action. By increasing building activity in the county, the economy would be stimulated, the theory goes, and bring the unemployment rate down. (For a full explanation of impact fees, go here.)

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Commissioners voted with little evidence that a moratorium would make a difference. They acknowledged the moratorium’s limitations. But short of other means, they also wanted to do something they could point to as a pro-business action. “I don’t think this is the magic pill. I just don’t,” Commissioner Nate McLaughlin said. “There’s a vast economic puzzle out there,” he said, and the moratorium would send a message that fits in the larger puzzle to say: “Hey, we are open for business.”

“Right now we’re getting nothing. We have an opportunity to create something that may or may not work,” Commissioner George Hanns, a retired builder, said. “For people who are on the verge of building, this may tip the scale.”

Commissioners Brabara Revels (also a builder) and Milissa Holland were also supportive.

Commissioner Alan Peterson was the lone dissenter. “The residents who have already paid their impact fees don’t get in my opinion to benefit by it,” he said, and would in fact pay again, for those who aren’t paying it. “If we artificially create increased demand for housing, it would be artificial, then you are going to slow down the absorption of the vacant properties that are currently for sale, and we all know what vacant houses are doing to our county.” A retired banker, Peterson cast doubt on suggestions that a moratorium would work. “There has been no proven correlation between economic activity and a moratorium on impact fees,” he said. “All of us are going to pay more for the impact fees that are lost. Only a few may benefit.”

Alan Peterson Explains His Opposition
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The county’s moratorium is relatively small: it cuts only $1,707 out of the schedule of impact fees, and it doesn’t affect what cities and the school board charge for construction. In Palm Coast, for example, the impact fees for a single-family house remain at $15,271. The school board’s impact fee is still $3,600, although the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and the Flagler Home Builders Association, the two groups behind the push for a moratorium, are taking their members to the school board Tuesday to compel that panel to follow Flagler’s lead.

But the big prize for the builders and the chamber would be Palm Coast, whose council has so far resisted an impact fee moratorium: Palm Coast is still collecting some impact fees (it just collected $200,000 from Carrabba’s restaurant, which is going up near Florida Hospital Flagler’s new satellite clinic near Palm Coast Parkway), and with a shrinking budget, it would be loath to give up another source of revenue. But by getting the county and the school board to suspend their impact fees, the chamber and the builders hope to exert enough pressure on Palm Coast to tip it into moratorium territory.

Most of those who spoke to the commission were part of the chamber or the association, including Jason DeLorenzo, the government affairs director for the home builders and a Palm Coast City Council member, who delivered one of the more disingenuous lines of the day as he prefaced his remarks to the commission: “No name tag. I’m Jason DeLorenzo, resident of Flagler County.”

The common theme among the many builders who spoke to the commissioners was a fence: many builders, they said, are sitting on the fence, waiting for an incentive to jump and build again. Though modest, an impact fee cut would do just that, many of them said.

Supporters of the moratorium included, surprisingly, Jay Gardner, the property appraiser. Gardner likes to say that he stays out of political issues. He described this one as an economic issue. He remembered the boom days when 4,100 new structures were permitted in a single year, compared to 190 this year. “By doing this you’re taking a pro-active movement to give something to get something,” he said. “The benefits compound.”

Commissioners also heard some opposition to the plan. Reinke, chairman of the Flagler County planning board, said the move was taking place in the absence of evidence, and suggested that the commission delay its action until it had harder numbers to go on showing that its moratorium would make a difference. Abby Romaine, a candidate for the county commission, proposed giving the first 50 builders who pull a permit a break on their impact fees, and to use the incentive as a way of measuring the break’s effectiveness. She described the proposal as a compromise.

The room applauded when the commission took its 4-1 vote, then quickly emptied, even though the next order of business was the commission’s discussion of a half-cent sales tax, which commissioners were expected to approve by a super-majority of at least four votes.

“Not interested in taxes, I guess,” Revels said, as developers and builders filed out.

2012 Impact Fees for a Single Family House in Flagler County, Bunnell, Flagler Beach and Palm Coast

Flagler County School BoardSchools$3,600
Total Impact Fees in Bunnell:$8,638.10
Flagler BeachWater$1,891.60
Parks and Recreation$268.45*
Total Impact Fees in Flagler Beach:$9,931.35
Flagler CountyTransportation$1,438.10*
Parks and Recreation$268.45*
Total Impact Fees in Flagler County:$5,306.55
Palm CoastParks and Recreation$1,208
Fire and Rescue$189.75
Water and Sewer Required Hookup Charge$2,535
Total Impact Fees in Palm Coast:$15,270.98
(*) The Flagler County Commission on Oct. 1, 2012, suspended the transportation and park impact fees for two years.

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24 Responses for “As Expected, Flagler County Suspends $1,707-a-Home Building Tax for 2 Years”

  1. Lin says:

    DeLorenzo should not be voting as Council member in this situation. He is supposed to represent the residents & taxpayers not the builders association. How did we let him get elected?

    • Outsider says:

      By a poor turnout of the voting population!

    • Magnolia says:

      Lin, DeLorenzo got elected because of low voter turnout and Melissa Holland’s supporters, which include members of the Tea Party’s executive board, as I understand it.

      His wife is #2 at the Chamber. Money talks in this town.

      While I am on my soapbox, is anybody else feeling lied to? We all supported the sales tax for our kids and then the builders and developers back out of the agreement? Are your children grown?

      It’s all about your profits and political control, isn’t it?

      • Lin says:

        Magnolia, I think you are right about the turnout and the groups that got together and supported him and money talks.

        But what does my children being grown have to do with any of it? Everyone benefits from good schools regardless of having kids in school or not. I have grandchildren I am very involved with and am extremely concerned about the dropping scores and the misteps of our school board and misuse of our school dollars.

        • Magnolia says:

          Lin, I mentioned our kids because that was the election campaign used for the school tax…support our kids. Now, to these people, that is not important?

          We were betrayed by our own schools and our own government on this issue. Money is tight for us all. I am tired of those who feel they are not responsible, developers who take the profits and leave the rest of us with the ruins, politicians who have stopped being responsive to their constituents.

          All must share equally in this responsibility.

  2. tulip says:

    The builders, realtors are quickly taking over and will rule Flagler County.

    Nate McLaughlin “appeared” to vote against his better judgement in favor of his realtor buddies, and is coming up for election in 2 years. I guess I don’t need that kind of decision maker.

    I’m not sure how Milissa honestly felt about it, but she needs to get the majority of votes to win the State Rep race, so I wouldn’t even hazard a guess on why she voted the way she did.

    George Hanns voted for it, he is up for relelection and it is known that he gets big donations from builders, etc. Don’t need him in office any more either.

    Barbara Revels is a nice lady but is a realtor/builder by profession.

    There was a gentlemen wearing a dark suit, white shirt in the audience that spoke—- his name sounded like Renke. He had done some reasearch and wanted to postpone the decision until the Volusia county data was reviewed to see the actual facts. I thought that was an intelligent idea. Apparently most of the BOCC didn’t even want to consider it.

    Abigail Romaine also had an excellent idea. It was rather intriguing and it would have been very interesting to see how many businesses who were not locating here because of the impact fee. would come running to be the first 50 to apply. Proof of the pudding, so to speak.

    Mr. Peterson summed it up very eloquently and clearly why he was against the moratorium, and made a lot of honest, well researched sense .

    My personal opinion on the subject is that the builders, vacant landowners, developers,CoC instigated the moratorium for their own personal gain and will continue to do so as much as they can.

  3. Max says:

    To summarize what just happened: Flagler County elected officials voted in favor of shifting the cost burden of providing and mantaining facilities and services to existing residents rather than placing that cost burden on new residents or businesses.

  4. Sad Times says:

    Well, well well….. another act of UTTER STUPIDITY!!! This makes no sense at all… the monies will not help anyone but the builders. How on earth can supposedly intelligent people fall for such an argument? I repeat myself….. UTTER STUPIDITY!!

    The monies will not be passed on to any potential buyer…. the money will only go into the builders’ pockets. We, the current residents will be paying and paying. It is too bad that these folks cannot be tried in court for misrepresenting their constituents!!!

  5. Jim says:

    Would this not be a form of corporate welfare? Something Republicans love!

  6. Lin says:

    DeLorenzo is a Democrat

  7. sparkle says:

    Jason DeLorenzo did NOT vote, he is not a County Commissioner. Fact is that Impact Fees are regulated by state statue and can ONLY be used to build parks /roads caused by new growth. There is currently NO need for any more parks in Flagler County and at the current rate of new housing growth, it would take decades to collect enough ‘transportation impact fees’ from new growth. There is NO ‘passing this along to citizens’. . most of us never paid impact fees to begin with.
    Mr. McLaughin said it best: “This is no magic bullet”, but maybe it will spur some economic growth in the next couple of years AND thus create a larger tax base, and hopefully keep our overall taxes lower. Impact Fees are very regulated and cannot be used for anything other than the purpose intended. Citizens lost nothing today, but you did gain the possibility of unemployed people hopefully going back to work.

    • Magnolia says:

      Sparkle, as long as we have no business tax base here in Flagler County, the citizens are stuck with the bill. That is the way it has always been here.

      DeLorenzo is every builder and developers wet dream.

      He may not have voted but he is the chief lobbyist for every builder and developer in Flagler County and the idiots in Palm Coast elected him to their council, and he DOES vote on these issues there. So in essence, his main job is being paid to look out for their interests while he is supposedly looking out for ours. He IS the fox in the hen house and the uninformed electorate in Palm Coast invited him in. Stupidity or corruption? Take your pick.

  8. GoodFella says:

    So we are going to build more houses in Flagler County when we already have hundreds of empty ones?

  9. Maryjoe says:

    “it just collected $200,000 from Carrabba’s restaurant” I dunno… did you people read that? $200K from ONE building. Have you ever thought about how many businesses built elsewhere even during the building craze because of the extremely high impact fees here in Palm Coast/Flagler County? The tax revenue and jobs from those places…you know without having to give them huge tax breaks…may have been quite substantial.
    Why don’t ya start asking PC where is the $2M plus money that they over charged through the building department is? The balance of the $6M plus that they should have never had? Ask ’em where it is.. :)

    • Logical says:

      I just check the city website – Carabbas paid $43,000 give or take I would rather see them pay for the infrastructure they are making an impact on (one days worth of profit) than us pay for it?

  10. Lin says:

    DeLorenzo did not vote as Commissioner — however, he did show up as “resident” and speak along with the developers. He is a representative of the homebuilders group and a member of the Palm Coast City Council which will be taking up this very issue.

    The consequences of a moratorium on impact fees can be many. The needs of the new residents for roads, schools may not be known and felt until after the homes are occupied. Where will the money come from if impact fees are not collected — ALL THE TAXPAYERS will pay more even those who have already paid when they bought their own homes.

    The additional buildings are competition for existing homes on the market and future homes to be placed on the market FURTHER REDUCING ALREADY DEPRESSED REAL ESTATE MARKET PRICES. This affects anyone selling a home in the area and contributes to unoccupied, unkept properties.

    Someone representinb/employed by homebuilders which will benefit should not be voting. Which hat was he wearing at the County and which hat will he wearing during the City vote? We’re not all stupid here.

  11. JW says:

    For all those folks complaining, I did not see you at the meeting when I was there to speak to the Board about your points of contention. Easy for you to sit in the peanut gallery and throw your comments out. Be proactive not reactive.

    “Right now, we’re getting nothing,” said Commissioner George Hanns. “We have an opportunity to make something. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.”

    • Magnolia says:

      George Hanns and this entire county commission are experts and doing nothing except hiring outsiders to do their jobs, none of them successful.

      Time for this lot to go.

  12. Lin says:

    Regarding not being at meetings, I must speak up.

    We hire (elect) representatives to speak for us and hopefully vote for the public good. Noone can be at every meeting although I try my best. I personally babysit for a one-yr-old grandchild mon-fri and others have jobs and responsibilities. I always vote but my candidates don’t always win and sometimes my choice turns out to be a disappointment when in office. But I voice my concerns — and hope that it helps and someone is listening.

  13. Outsider says:

    Sorry outsider imposter, went through this some time ago where someone used my name to make slanderous remarks… I didn’t want to go through that again….it’s all good.

  14. Huey says:

    The public meetings are there for the public to debate with their representatives in public. If you don’t go, you don’t get to communicate with them in public and have to do it privately.

    The builders and developers have no clout. The industry has been wiped out and it represented a huge segment of the U.S. economy. There isn’t one of you YOCALS that lives in a tent because of them.

    Ignorance breeds stink.

  15. tulip says:

    @Magnolia The one County commissioner that was against the moratorium, Mr. Peterson, ironically is the one that lost his election by a small margin and will be replaced by a trustee member of the Chamber of Commerce. I listened to that last meeting and his speech about why he didn’t want the moratorium was extremely well said and done. It probably made him more enemies in the building field, but at least he is honest. We don’t know yet whether Abigail Romaine or Meeker will be voted in. Whatever happens 2 former members will be gone, one probably to the State House and the other to other things.

    I’m inclined to vote for Ms. Romaine, as she owes nothing to anyone and no one owes her and she hasn’t become “jaded” yet, and seems to be the type of person to actually think things out on all sides of an issue, which is what I like in a person.

    • Magnolia says:

      I am inclined to agree with you re Ms. Romaine, which is why she will likely get my vote. As for Ms. Holland, I wouldn’t count my chickens yet or look for a house in Tallahassee.

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