Impacts: To Fee or Not to Fee, that is the Question!

Special interest groups are attempting to persuade the Polk County BOCC to raise impact fees. During the real estate boom, impact fees were increased and the County prospered. At this time, growth is stifled, new construction is virtually non-existent and unemployment is at record levels. There is a misconception that “developers” are pillaging the land and leaving Polk County with bags of money. It doesn’t happen that way. Most “developers” are local men and women who own the land they wish to improve. Every home, office, school, church, restaurant, campground, park, store and car dealership is “development” and/or redevelopment. Obviously we must set aside lands for parks and recreation, conservation and public use, but there has to be a balance of new development and redevelopment in order to create and sustain jobs. No one has a monolopy on environmental issues. Virtually all of the the green technologies and sustainable practices have been created and implemented by private entities (not the result of taxation). As for new taxes, the current state of affairs has been referred to as the “Great Recession” by many. The unprecendented number of foreclosures is creating a toxic climate in which property taxes, homeowner assessments, insurance, maintenance and other fees paid by customarily paid by homeowners are not being collected on foreclosed homes. Many of the residential developments approved during the boom remain empty (vacant lots) for the most part. Very few new homes are being built and that will be the case until the existing inventory is exhausted. Some experts say three to five years before the economy is back to normal. The citizens of Polk County cannot wait three to five years. They need action, not words or empty promises. Impact fees can be reduced or eliminated until the economy picks back up. Unemployment in Polk County was once under 4%, now it is heading toward 15%. Now is not the time to raise taxes. We need immediate action to get people back to work now. This summer could be promising with new businesses being established in Polk County, but there have to be incentives. Otherwise, the employers will locate in Hillsborough, Osceola or other counties that actively pursue and “incentivize” job creation.

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