Impact fee hike to pay for better county parks

Builders in Osceola County will pay even more next year to offset impacts caused to natural land by developments after county commissioners passed new increases Monday.

County planners proposed an increase to Osceola’s Park Impact Fees - or costs builders pay to offset impacts to natural land and resources - during a meeting earlier this month and adopted the measure Monday.

The county already has some of the highest combined impact fees in the state and the highest in the region, after mobility fees rose two years ago and school fees jumped last year.

Developers will now pay $23,225 per home and $19,046 per apartment unit in combined Osceola County impact fees, according to county records.

Ricardo Rodriguez of the Greater Orlando Home Builders’ Association spoke out against the proposal during public comment.

“These impact fees have become a major concern to our members,” he said.

The new proposal will increase park impact fees for single-family homes by about 150 percent, from $924 to $2,305 per home, according to the county planners.

Orange County has the second highest park fees in the area at $1,544 per home.

The fees help pay for things like community parks, ballfields, dog parks, splash pads and recreation centers. The rate hike will pay for proposed projects outlined in the county’s Parks Comprehensive Plan put forth by staff and adopted by commissioners last year.

That plan projects up to $167 million in future parks spending over the next 20 years.

Park impact fees haven’t been adjusted in Osceola County for 12 years, noted Assistant Community Development Administrator Susan Caswell March 4.

The new fees only apply to single family home, mobile home park and multi-family unit construction.

The new rates were set to increase Oct. 1, but Commissioners Viviana Janer and Peggy Choudhry voiced concern about the hike impacting projects already in the pipeline.

“We want developers to pay, yes, but I think we also have to give them the opportunity to get a little acclimated to this,” said Janer, who originally proposed a gradual increase between October and January. “We’ve done similar things with our mobility fees in the past.”

The board ultimately chose to delay the new fee implementation until Jan. 1.