Sarasota, Florida -- The City of Sarasota has taken the first step in breaking away from the county's impact fee agreement and going it alone. City leaders say they'll have more flexibility with its own transportation money.
The city leaders have set a new impact fee rate that will attract developers but it could end up costing taxpayers money.
Look up and you'll see the City of Sarasota's new favorite bird the crane, the construction crane. Sarasota has more than 2,000 new hotel rooms and luxury condos planned.
City leaders hope this new urban growth will steer people away from using their cars to using their feet. But, improvements are needed to build on this form of multimodal transportation to help ease traffic.
Bicyclists would like to see more bike lanes. SCAT customers like Stephanie Challenger would like to see better public transportation. "It's kind of difficult not really consistent," she says.
The city would use impact fees to make alternative road improvements like widening sidewalks and adding bike paths. But, in a 4-to-1 vote, the city commission decided to set its impact fees 57% lower than the county's leaving taxpayers to pay the difference.
The City of Sarasota changes prepares its own impact fee approach to shift away from county oversight.
Sarasota Vice Mayor Susan Chapman voted against subsidizing the cost. "Do we charge new developers less 60 percent of the actual costs than their project brings in transportation? I don't think that's fair to the taxpayer. It shifts the cost back to the taxpayer," Chapman said.
"We don't put the burden back on the taxpayer we actually brought in more economic activity," said Commissioner Shannon Snyder, City of Sarasota.
Snyder says Sarasota is land-locked. He says lower impact fees will attract more urban construction, creating more density some of which will be from affluent property owners, and this he says will create more property and sales revenue. On Tuesday, City Commissioners also approved a 450-unit apartment complex plus more than 1,000 additional units in the Rosemary District.
"The more redevelopment we have the more economic activity we have, the more tax revenue we have. By eliminating or lowering impact fees we bring in more revenue. That's how we pay for the impact growth has," Snyder said.
But, not all agree. Challenger says, "I really think new developers should be responsible. I don't think we should pay."
"Not against paying for that if it benefits everybody," says Lyn Fox.
Snyder says the city has grown by about only 3,000 residents since the 1980 census. Snyder says the lower impact fees will attract more developers.
And, will taxpayers have to pay for multimodal transportation improvements? "No," Snyder said. "It will come out of new revenue."