The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Tuesday, April 2, 1991, at 5:05 p.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Courthouse, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Donald B. Bailey, Chairman; C. W. "Chick" Gregg; Richard Swartz; Catherine Hanson; and Michael J. Bakich. Others present were: Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney; Alan A. Thelen, County Manager; Ava Kronz, Assistant to the County Manager; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
E-911/EDUCATION/FIRE PROTECTION/SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT
Ms. Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney, reviewed amendments, scrivener's errors, and some other proposed changes (which clarified some information and added language) which were requested to be made to the impact fee ordinances at the last meeting which was held regarding them. In addition, she distributed to the Board some proposed changes which the School Board had requested, as well as an amendment to each ordinance, adding another exemption, reflecting what the Board had directed at a prior meeting regarding moving a residence from one lot to another in the same district if they have already paid impact fees, or, if there was an illegally existing building on the prior site. She stated one of the ordinances before the Board was an amendment to the existing Road Impact Fee Ordinance, noting it was not really in the same category with the other four ordinances, which are creating impact fees, therefore, it should be acted on separately from the others.
Mr. Leonard Phillips, a local resident and businessman, appeared before the Board representing himself and his wife, in relation to the Green Thumb Garden Center Corporation, a family corporation. He stated he had 30 years experience in dealing with
tax deed certificates and wanted to point out to the Board how bad present conditions are for a great number of people in Lake County, and getting vastly worse. He said more and more people in the County cannot pay their taxes because they do not have money to pay them with, at which time he noted the length of time it used to take (approximately two hours) to sell the tax deeds on the books versus the time it presently takes (several days). He stated the property in Lake County is being assessed for more than it is worth and being sold every day for less than its assessed value, therefore, wanted to make people aware of the fact that things are not real rosy in Lake County at the present time.
Mr. Patrick Daly, a resident of Clermont, appeared before the Board stating that he moved to Lake County from Orange County approximately two years ago, noting that he was recently married and he and his wife are trying to save money in order to purchase a home. He stated that, judging from what is being proposed, it seems like he and his wife are going to have to come up with more money in order to pay their taxes. He requested the Board to look at what the impact fees are going to do to the younger sector of the population in Lake County who are trying very hard to purchase homes of their own and get away from renting.
Mr. H. H. Hartman, a resident of Mt. Dora, appeared before the Board stating that the Tax Collector's Office presently has approximately 90,000 delinquent parcels (unpaid revenue) on their files, noting that someone is going to have to pay the bill if the Board keeps raising taxes.
Mr. Dale Ladd, Ladd Construction Company, appeared before the Board stating he was representing his firm and a client, Ms. Jill Crane, who is in the process of trying to qualify for a loan, in order for him to build her a home. He stated the Board needed to identify the fact that "impact fee" is a sugarcoating for a new tax, noting that what it is is an impact tax, and should be recognized for what it really is. He stated it is easy to sell, because the Board is stating they are going to tax developers, and
developers are "bad guys". He stated he has built 300 houses in the past six years in Lake County, most of which are FHA houses (beginner houses) and has never paid an impact fee. He stated impact fees are really paid by the consumer, as developers pass it on to them, so, in reality, the County is not taxing developers - they are taxing home owners. He discussed higher costs involved now with building homes, and stated he is tired of reading in the newspaper that the Board is going to force developers to build affordable housing. He also stated he is tired of hearing that development does not pay for itself, because it does.
Mr. Mark Edwards, a local resident, appeared before the Board stating that speculators have always had their eyes on the public purse to help them subsidize their projects. He stated that Orange County's impact fees are higher than this County's and he did not want Lake County to become a carbon copy of Orange County, noting that, in order to lessen their taxes, people might be willing to have fewer services. He stated that, if impact fees are not paid in full by those individuals moving into the County, questioned who was going to pay them - the resident taxpayer, noting that they always done it and he would like to see it stopped.
Ms. Janice Booth, a resident of Clermont, appeared before the Board stating that she and her husband moved to Lake County from New Jersey, hoping to buy or build, as they like Lake County very much, however, are concerned that they may not be able to, as they have to have two incomes in order to pay their bills, and at this point, any amount of money beyond the impact fees already in place, can make a difference in whether or not they can obtain a mortgage. She stated they are facing a squeeze from all ends. She stated there needs to be better management in how the County's money is spent and the way it is spent, as the County cannot keep expecting someone else to pick up its financial burden.
Mr. L. W. Conner, a resident of Bassville Park, appeared before the Board stating that he understood the Board wants to raise an impact fee of $108.00 per year for the garbage incinerator
and is going to almost double the rates for fire protection, in Bassville Park, as well as add a $4.20 per month additional charge for utilities to be provided to the unincorporated areas of the County. He stated if the Board keeps raising taxes in Lake County they are going to price the County out of business and drive the people out.
Mr. Lawson Wolfe, the owner of CBS Industries, appeared before the Board in opposition to all the impact fee ordinances before the Board this date, as he is concerned about the effect they will have on the County, if they are adopted. He mentioned the fact that other counties and municipalities have had to down size their government, and questioned how many cuts the County has had recently in staff, and in salary, noting that maybe it is time to start looking at some of those things. He then discussed the cost involved in the construction of the new Jail and Criminal Justice Facility, at which time he compared a concrete block (costing 50 cents each), which is used in most construction projects, with a block that is being used in the construction of the new Jail and Criminal Justice Facility (costing $4.50 each), noting that it is nine times as expensive. He stated the architects that designed the new facilities are probably going to win all kinds of awards in trade publications for the wonderful job they did; however, the taxpayers are going to pick up the tab. He requested the Board to table the ordinances before them, cut spending and salaries, and look at the fiscal impact on everything the County does - do what is adequate, noting that the County does not need the finest of everything, just what is adequate. He stated by having responsible leadership and planning, the County will ensure the residents', and their grandchildren's, future.
Mr. Keith Shamrock, Shamrock Development Corporation, appeared before the Board and briefly discussed the unemployment rate in Lake County (presently at 8% and on the rise), noting that the Board has got to realize the effect that County government has on the economy. He stated the County has got to be careful not to
destroy the real estate industry, as it is presently the industry that carries this County, since the citrus industry is gone. He stated the action the Board takes this date will definitely affect first time home buyers, due to the fact that, if interest rates go up even one-half percent, it means that 200,000 to 300,000 people will not be able to buy homes. He stated the same effect occurs if one increases the base on which those interest rates are applied.
Mr. Shamrock then discussed the Tree Ordinance, stating that builders have to guarantee trees they plant for one year, noting that, if the trees die, the builder has to replace them, and this is an extra cost they have to add into the next home they build, which is another form of an impact fee that is passed on to the home buyer. He stated the thing that concerns him is the timing of these impact fees, as the County is being hit from all directions. He stated he has no problem with the school impact fee, as he feels it is needed, however, feels it should be phased in, but wants someone to prove to him that impact fees are needed in the other areas. He stated the County needs to slow the train down and allow the economic community to get in gear. He stated the Board needs to stop, look, and review everything they are doing.
Ms. Rosemary Bennett, a member of the Lake County Association of Realtors and the Florida Association of Realtors, appeared before the Board stating that, in 1986, she was a member of the committee studying the Growth Management Act, and how it could be improved and implemented as a positive approach. She stated she was also on the committee for environmental study two years ago. She stated the Homebuilders Association has presented to some legislators (25 so far) a Bill which will, in effect, govern how the impact fees are collected, how long the County can hold them, and what happens if they do not use them. She stated they are not to be used until the need is there. She then discussed the issue of double documentary stamps and the fact that, should it be passed, it will be another form of impact fees, so, the Board is
not only talking about the fee ordinances being presented to them this date, but also all the other little things that are tacked on the purchase of a new home or property. She urged the Board to do another study, before adopting the ordinances before them.
Mr. Ward Churchman, Churchman Metal Products, appeared before the Board stating that he is against taxation without representation, which he stated is what these ordinances represent. He stated he hoped this whole issue did not deteriorate to a point where the people in this county get so bitter that they take some pretty hard lines against it.
Mr. Dan Eastwood, a resident of Tavares, appeared before the Board stating that the decisions which are coming from Washington to Tallahassee, to county governments, are going to have to have the brakes put on them. He stated there is no question that an impact fee is a tax, and if there are no impact fees, it seems to him that the developer is going to have to carry the load, instead of the home buyer having to pick up the costs, as a finished building is easier to finance than raw land.
Mr. Rick Moss, a resident of Clermont, appeared before the Board to discuss what effect he felt the impact fees are going to have on the local job market. He stated there are so many companies in the County that are on such tight budgets, as it is, that, if the ordinances are passed, they are going to take away from the contractors, and a lot of jobs in that particular field.
Mr. Claude Smoak, former Commissioner, and a resident of Clermont, appeared before the Board stating that he is a large land owner, as well as developer, in Lake County. He stated that what the Board was hearing this date was a common theme that is running throughout government, and throughout Lake County. He stated the Board has hired a consulting firm, from Mississippi, to come to Lake County and tell them the common sense things they already have the answers to. He stated the biggest growth industry presently in Lake County is Lake County government itself, noting that there are more new employees, staff, and departments, that the County had to
develop its own staff to bill and collect monies, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He stated the bottom line is jobs, noting that the County does not have any economy driving it right now, yet what the County is presently doing sends a message all over the country, to the business community, that the County does not welcome them and that they must prove why they can come into the County. He stated, historically, the older generation helped the younger generation and feels that we ought to continue to do so, as they have a tougher time, economically, today than what the older generation did when they were growing up, and he does not want the young people to say they cannot live in Lake County due to the fact that they are going to have to pay upfront. He stated the answer is leadership, and urged the Board to slow down the speed with which staff is moving them, urging them not to let staff bury them in paperwork that cannot be read before the next meeting. He urged them to regain control of the agendas which they will be reviewing, and to set priorities on the Board for actions which will be taken.
Mr. Carl Ludecke, a local builder and member of the Impact Fee Committee, appeared before the Board stating that there are three impact fees before the Board this date which the committee did not approve, being (1) education, (2) parks and recreation, and (3) public libraries. He stated the committee felt these were areas which needed to be looked at again, before acting on them. He stated the Board needs to look at the issue of affordable housing in Lake County, and they also need to consider the 1% gas tax and the 1% sales tax increase that the County recently passed, noting that this County has a higher sales tax than most of the surrounding areas.
Mr. John West, a resident of Umatilla, appeared before the Board and referred to a letter he had mailed them, prior to this meeting, regarding Hillsborough County's impact fees and how they affected that county, noting that it backfired on them. He stated this County is going to charge an impact fee for fire protection,
even though it already has developers donating land for fire stations, and even agreeing to build the fire stations. He stated fire stations are not the problem, it is manpower, noting that what has happened in the past, in this County, has discouraged the volunteers. Instead of encouraging them and lending them support, the Board has taken that away, which he feels is going to cost the County dearly. He stated he would like to see the County get back to basics and back to the volunteer philosophy that this country was built on, noting that this county is not ready for a fully paid fire department. He stated he felt the Board could still generate some volunteer fire fighters, if they just encourage and support them.
Ms. Phyllis Cross, a local realtor, appeared before the Board stating that, if the Board is going to approve the impact fees, to put some sort of scale on them, so that people that are building inexpensive homes, or are putting mobile homes on inexpensive lots would not have to pay as much as someone who is building a $150,000.00 to $200,000.00 home.
Mr. Steve Copeland, a resident of Clermont, appeared before the Board requesting them to take into consideration those individuals that are hoping to build their own homes, when they consider the ordinances before them.
Mr. Bert McDonald, a local resident, appeared before the Board stating that, at the last meeting which was held regarding impact fees, he obtained a copy of the impact fee study and found that, in the last draft, it states that the proposed impact fees were created with extensive citizen participation; however, in researching this fact, found it was not true. He stated if the Board can give the taxpayers a plan that states where the dollars are going to be spent, on what, and how much, the taxpayers might endorse the plan.
Ms. Jean Kaminski, Executive Director of the Homebuilders Association, appeared before the Board stating that, when one looks at the mathematical equation, the lower the cost of the housing
involved, the higher the percentage of the impact fee. She stated impact fees directly, and indirectly, increase rents, creating a cycle that precludes home ownership for some of those people who are renting. She stated that, as rents escalate, it becomes more and more difficult to save the money needed to get into a home. She stated that, an impact fee, at whatever amount it is adopted, ultimately doubles and triples when it is spread over the cost of a mortgage, noting that maybe the Board should be looking at some new ways to collect monies, to help establish some of the needed services, rather than handle it the way it is presently being handled. She requested the Board to look at, and revisit, the section of the ordinances before them pertaining to an automatic escalation each year, noting that she felt the matter should come back to the Board, yearly, at which time they can decide whether or not the increase is really needed.
Mr. Roger Connor, a local resident and businessman, appeared before the Board stating that a balancing act has to be done, as he does not want to pay any more taxes than he has to pay, but, by the same token, those individuals moving into the County have to share in the new tax, which puts the County into the middle of a dilemma. He stated the Board needs to take a look at what is happening and slow down, at which time he requested the Board to take a second look at the issue of impact fees, before approving them.
Mr. Kevin Burkholder, a local builder and developer, as well as the owner of some rental property in Lake County, appeared before the Board stating that the owners of rental property have to pay impact fees the same as someone who is building a new home, therefore, they have to charge more rent to the individuals renting from them, which forces those individuals to put less money aside to build the new home they are dreaming of.
Ms. Cecelia Bonifay, a local attorney who represents primarily development interests in Lake County, appeared before the Board stating that she was not representing any particular one at this meeting, just development in general. She distributed a handout
indicating the opinion of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, regarding the issue of school impact fees in St. Johns County. She stated she is concerned about the fact that this Board has not done anything, up till now, about adopting an illegal fee. She stated that the laws of the State of Florida, at this point in time, in the jurisdiction in which this County resides, which is governed by the Fifth District Court of Appeals, has said that impact fees are unconstitutional. She then read into the record what the opinion of the Fifth District Court of Appeals stated.
Ms. Bonifay stated if the Board adopts the school impact fee it is a cost that will be borne by the taxpayers; however, she questioned what is going to happen when a group of taxpayers sues this County, and the County has to repay those fees, with interest, as well as attorneys' fees. She stated she felt it was not a prudent decision on this Board's part to try to rush ahead, noting that she did not know how long the Supreme Court will take in making their decision; however, to totally disregard this issue, in thinking that there was some unique thing about the St. Johns County ordinance to make the fee be struck down, is untrue. She stated this is not what the opinion said and not what it holds, therefore, if the Board approves the school impact fee, it will be adopting a fee that is illegal, at this point in time.
Ms. Bonifay stated she had some concerns as to the actual text of the school impact fee ordinance, as it is written, in terms of some of the provisions, as well as in terms of the costs and expense to developers, therefore, cautioned the Board to use more prudence in this particular area, and to wait and obtain a court determination on the matter. She also questioned whether or not the Board was going to put in an across-the-board increase, tied to some index, noting that, legally, she felt there may be a problem with that. She then discussed the issue of refunds, stating how she felt about the matter, as well as the issue of capital improvements, stating that she did not know why the County would keep the public's money for six years, refund it with interest, yet
retain a 3% administration fee just for handling it. She stated what the Board is hearing from the public is that there has to be more equity in the system, and that the County has to look at ways in which to finance improvements and have them be fair and equally apportioned. She stated it is not a simple issue, and the County is going to have to use some new and different approaches, as opposed to the standard of slapping an impact fee on people, because the formula says they ought to pay it.
Mr. Steve Richey, Attorney, appeared before the Board and discussed what kind of impact development has on the County, in reference to growth not paying for itself. He stated he is concerned about the unemployment rate in Lake County, noting that the County leads the region in unemployment, at the present time, and questioned what impact the Board's actions this date will have on the County - economically and financially. He also discussed the fact that school impact fees are illegal, whether the School Board indemnifies the Board and holds them harmless, or not, and wondered how the Board could enact something that is absolutely illegal, and then suggest to the public that they want them to abide by all the other laws the County keeps enacting. He requested the Board not to rush into something that is going to do more harm to the County, at this point in time, than good.
Mr. Tim Sullivan, Vice Chairman of the Lake County School Board, appeared before the Board stating that he is a constitutional officer in the State of Florida and will not violate the law, noting that if the Fifth District Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court, upholds the decision that school impact fees are illegal, the School Board will not move forward on it, due to the fact that they do not want to put the Board of County Commissioners in a position of violating the law, nor do they want to put themselves in that position. He stated, however, that there is a crisis in the Lake County School System, noting that there are 600 new students coming into the school system every year, which equates to one new elementary school every year. He stated there
was also a concern brought up about low income housing, noting that low income housing is addressed in the school impact fee ordinance. He requested, on behalf of the Lake County School Board, that the Board move forward on the school impact fee ordinance, due to the fact that if the Board puts it off now, and the Supreme Court does approve it, the process will have to be started all over again, which means that the Lake County School System will not receive approximately $400,000.00 that they, otherwise, would. He stated that, due to this fact, the school system will probably not lose teachers, but will probably lose a lot of teachers' aides positions (who help teachers be teachers and not paper pushers).
It was noted that the School Board had voted to hold the Board of County Commissioners harmless regarding this matter.
Discussion continued regarding the school impact fee ordinance, at which time the County Attorney, Ms. Lustgarten, stated that the ordinance in St. Johns County is the ordinance that was found to be unconstitutional, noting that it is substantially different than the one that is before the Board this date, because of certain details in it which are not contained in this ordinance. She also stated that it did not apply countywide - only those people that had children in school were required to pay that impact fee, which she noted is distinctly different than this ordinance, which pertains to all residences in Lake County.
It was noted that the Supreme Court will hear the case regarding the school impact fees at the end of July, at which time the County Attorney stated that it is the option of the Board as to whether or not they wait until July, to see what the decision of the Supreme Court will be, before approving said ordinance.
Mr. Al Thelen, County Manager, requested that the Board move the effective date to July, if they act on it, due to some problems involved with setting up the processes to collect and account for these fees.
Further discussion occurred regarding this matter, at which time Commr. Bailey suggested that the Board table the school impact
fee ordinance, until they receive the decision of the Supreme Court.
Commr. Swartz stated the consequence of not going forward with the impact fees, at this time, means the continued overcrowding of children in portables, if the portables are even available, and the continued congestion of the County's highway system, which means that the very businesses that many of the residents want to attract to Lake County will not come, due to the lousy school system and the fact that they cannot drive anywhere. He stated the County will not have proper protection provided from law enforcement, fire protection or EMS, nor will the County attract the very tax base, in the commercial/industrial sector, that the County needs to have, due to the fact that they could not collect the fee that would cover the cost. He stated he will support the impact fee ordinances because he feels they are necessary, and the only solution to the problems the County is presently faced with, which is a degradation of the County's very quality of life. He stated the only alternative he sees would be for the County to raise taxes to pay for the new schools, roads, fire, EMS, and law enforcement, and do away with the impact fees.
Mr. Smoak interjected, from the audience, that the Board is not talking about a few dollars, they are talking about a system of government and a direction in how the people in this County live. He stated if the Board would support these impact fees and reduce, on the other side of the ledger, ad valorem taxes, everybody in the room would applaud them, but this does not happen. He stated every county in this State that has impact fees also has an escalating rise in property taxes.
Commr. Bailey stated he felt the people in Lake County are trying to tell the Board that they have had enough of government, would rather have less services, and that the County needs to get its own house in order. He stated the silent majority is about to become the vocal majority, and felt it was time for the Board to listen.
Commr. Bakich stated that he felt the County has entirely too many issues that they are addressing, at the present time, and, unfortunately, they are ones that will require the people of the County to dig into their pockets. He recommended the Board table a number of issues which the County is presently in the process of addressing, until such time as they have the opportunity to sit down and prioritize what they feel is important to this County, and what they feel the people of the County can afford. He stated the Board needs to have staff tell them, with each and every issue, what the costs involved with each issue will be, to have them implemented, at which time the Board needs to weigh the effects said issues will have on the County and judge the benefits from them. He also stated he would like for staff to look at why some of the counties that have been charging impact fees have not been affected like St. Johns County.
Commr. Hanson stated she appreciated the input the Board received this date from the business community, noting that the Board does not often hear from the business community the way they should, and feels that no one can put dollars and cents on a matter like the business community can. She also stated the Board needs to do an evaluation of the County's needs versus its wants and what the people are willing to pay for. She stated the County needs to use its tax dollars better, and needs less government, rather than more. She stated she feels impact fees are a quick fix and that the County will pay for them later in subsidies and affordable housing. She feels not only does the Board need to put the brakes on, but needs to turn the train around.
Commr. Gregg reminded all those present that the residents living in Lake County have been getting by on what they have been paying in ad valorem taxes, so feels that there is some fallacy in the attitude that the County suddenly has to have $1,000.00 a house in impact fees, to catch up, which would mean that the rest of the people in Lake County had a free ride. He stated he did not feel the County was short $200 million, which is what this would equate
out to, based on the number of houses in Lake County, at the present time. He stated he is for impact fees, to a certain extent, and feels that they can be done fairly, however, feels they ought to be phased in over a period of time. He stated he supports the school impact fees, but, would consider tabling it until the Board hears from the Supreme Court, and what it rules; however, feels the residents can live without the other fees, as he feels they are not totally necessary. He also feels that government is going to have to take a long hard look at the service they offer. He stated, however, that the Board needs to decide, if they table the school impact fee ordinance, when they will bring it back before this Board, for a decision. He stated Lake County has a negative image concerning new industry coming into the County and feels that the County needs to change that, at which time he alluded to the fact that there is a 7.9% unemployment rate in Lake County. He recommended phasing in the fees and tabling all the ordinances, at the present time; however, in the case of the school impact fee ordinance, felt that at the time the County receives the decision of the Supreme Court, to bring that ordinance back before this Board for a decision. He stated the County is being faced with more and more costs from the State and Federal Government, with no help in funding; therefore, what the people need to decide is whether or not they are willing to do with less services than what they presently have. He stated the County needs to cut services, and get more efficient, or it needs to increase taxes.
Commr. Bakich requested the Board to adopt some sort of time frame, or to have the Impact Fee Committee come back to the Board, concerning the remainder of the impact fee ordinances, so that the Board can prioritize them and determine whether or not they want them, as well.
A motion was made by Commr. Bakich and seconded by Commr. Gregg to table the school impact fee ordinance, until such time as the Board receives a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court, and that the remaining impact fee ordinances be tabled, as well.
Under discussion, Commr. Swartz questioned how the Board proposed to fund the Capital Improvements Element that includes the improvements in fire protection, emergency, and law enforcement, which is part of the Comprehensive Plan that has been submitted, to which Commr. Bakich stated the Board has two options, being (1) that this Board work with the Impact Fee Committee, and decide at which time they want to bring the issue back, and give the people a clear indication of what they are going to do with the dollars they are going to take, or (2) that the County reduce its services.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which was carried.
Commr. Swartz voted "No".
At this time, Ms. Annette Star Lustgarten, County Attorney, noted an additional amendment which needed to be made to the Road Impact Fee Ordinance (which she distributed to the Board), on Page 6, Line 23, adding an exemption for the relocation of a residence from one site to another within the same Road Impact Fee District, provided the applicant shall provide documentation as to the prior site and that an impact fee was paid, or that the residence legally existed prior to the effective date of this ordinance.
On a motion by Commr. Bakich, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously, the Board approved an amendment to the Road Impact Fee Ordinance, as alluded to above, by the County Attorney.
On a motion by Commr. Bakich, seconded by Commr. Hanson and carried unanimously, the Board approved and adopted the Road Impact Fee Ordinance, as amended.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 8:00 p.m.
DONALD B. BAILEY, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK