City of Fort Myers is seeking new ways to help pay for the impact of new development. Currently using transportation impact fees through the Lee County’s program, the city is now looking into a mobility fee ordinance.
Impact fees are one-time fees municipal and county governments in Florida may charge a developer to cover a portion of the anticipated cost of additional infrastructure and public facilities needed to support a new development. Fees are charges to help pay for the impact of a new development on roads, parks, schools and other critical infrastructure.
“The rationale is that new development necessitates new or expanded infrastructure to accommodate the new residents,” Community Development Director Steve Belden said.
Fort Myers participates in the county’s roads, regional parks, fire, emergency medical services and schools impact fee program through interlocal agreements.
“The impact fee, they’re very strictly regulated on where they can be used and how they can be used,” Belden said. “They’re really limited to road improvements, signalizations, intersection improvements, turn lanes, things like that. Anything that’s going to improve the capacity and improve the efficiency of that road network.”
In contrast to the limited uses of impact fees, mobility fees open a new world of possibility beyond just road improvements. They can be used for bicycle/pedestrian facilities, transit-related facilities and adding trails and transit-type systems in addition to road improvements.
“The Community Renewal Act of 2009 kind of enabled all of this with mobility plans and fees,” Belden said. “At that time, the act required completion and submission of a mobility fee methodology study.”
There was a consensus among Council at Monday afternoon’s workshop to move forward with a study, with Council member Liston Bochette commenting on the flexibility of mobility fees.
“The ability to use it in different areas normally is not covered under impact fees and opens it up to a wider usability, which could be very advantageous to us to not be restricted and handcuffed to where we can spend money,” he said.
The mobility fee should be designed to provide for mobility needs, ensure that development provides mitigation for its impacts on the transportation system and promote compact and mixed-use energy efficient development.
Mobility fees must be calculated based on the multimodal projects adopted in a mobility plan and must be used to fund the identified multimodal projects in the plan. The plan also must reflect modes of travel and emerging transportation technologies reducing reliance on motor vehicle capacity.
“That’s the whole goal here,” Belden said, “to move away from [being] primarily focused on road vehicular transportation and kind of look at other opportunities in addition to vehicles.”
A study must be conducted to determine the mobility plan and fees. To accommodate the mobility plan/fees, the city’s comprehensive plan and land development regulations would have to be amended. If adopted, the mobility fee would replace the transportation impact fee and the transportation concurrency fee.
While having an expected six-to-eight-month timeframe once the study begins, the first step is for city staff to prepare a request for proposal to solicit proposals from consulting firms before selecting one to undertake the mobility study.