Will mobility fees slow overdevelopment?
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02/16/10 Joshua Lee Holton
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Districts that could receive revenue from the mobility fee


photo by Joshua Lee Holton

According to Hillsborough Planning officials, growth and urban sprawl have spread across Hillsborough County, due in part to impact fees on urban development. The County wants to change this by getting rid of impact fees. So planning and transportation officials from local levels of government discussed changes to a newly proposed mobility fee that would replace the impact fee. It could mitigate the effects of new development, while generating revenue for improving local infrastructure.

When a developer wants to build somewhere in the county, that development must pay a fee to cover the costs of transportation improvements around the site. The county currently funds these new local traffic improvements using an impact fee, charged to each developer. Senate Bill 360 requires the county to look into a mobility fee instead of an impact fee. The Mobility Fee Technical Committee is made up of planning and transit officials in Hillsborough County, like Director of Planning Growth and Management Peter Aluotto, who says that mobility fees will cover more than just roads.

The only thing that the mobility fee law does above and beyond was the impact fee does, it says it doesn’t have to be just for roads, it can be for busses, it could be sidewalks, it could be trails, for any number of things, bicycle routes, and the purpose of that is we have locations in Hillsborough county, like the city of Tampa, where it’s no longer feasible to widen roads, there’s not enough right away to widen roads, so you have to do something else. And that something else could be transit, could be busses, could be any number of different things, and mobility fee gives you that flexibility.

To time when developers should be charged for surrounding growth and new road improvements, the county uses a system of concurrency to keep development smaller. But Aluotto found out that the exact opposite outcome has happened.

The concurrency requirement said that when you approve a development, the improvements to the transportation system have to be done concurrent to that development. Well everyone thought at the time that that would be a great way for development to pay for itself. But what we found out over the years is that it actually, as opposed to increasing densities and making more compact growth, it encouraged sprawl because people went where they could meet concurrency. And you can’t meet concurrency where it’s dense and crowded, so you go further out where it’s less crowded and you can meet concurrency. And so unwittingly we caused a lot of sprawl by concurrency.

Today the committee decided to look at the county’s long term needs instead of only what they can afford. They will now use needs in deciding how much money is necessary for new transportation improvements in each district. Planning Commission Team Leader Jim Zambito was concerned that only looking at what the county could afford wouldn’t go far enough.

The plan right now is limited to the revenues that we anticipate between now and 2035, so it’s a limited set of the improvements that are needed to maintain mobility. Where as the needs assessment is developed with no consideration of cost. It’s just strictly what is needed to accommodate the growth that we expect between now and the year 2035. So I think that’s a better plan to be aiming at, cause that covers all the needs as opposed to the cost affordable which is limited based o n the old revenue system that we currently have. So by using the needs we’re covering a lot more, and the fee should address all the needs. That’s the goal of the mobility fee.

Marilyn Smith attended the meeting, and was concerned that the new fee would not be any more effective than the old one.

You know we still have level of service Z on some and con was supposed to handle that. Growth was supposed to take care of that. But there was so many excepts and waivers for impact fees that we are very bad, their con has never been reached, even though our growing has slowed down, we still got very poor roads and mobility isn’t one of the words you think about hills county,

The committee will meet again on February 25th to continue the discussion about the new fee.

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