NOVEMBER 10, 2004

            The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special meeting as part of Leadership Lake County Government/History Day, on November 10, 2004, at 2:45 p..m., in the Board of County Commissioner’s Meeting Room, on the second floor of the Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell; and Robert A. Pool. Commissioners not present were: Debbie Stivender, Chairman; and Catherine C. Hanson. Others present were: William “Bill” Neron, County Manager; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.




            Commr. Hill called to order the “mock” county budget hearing and explained that normally the Board of County Commissioners (Board) have an invocation and pledge, but they will dismiss this portion, for the purpose of proceeding with the fictitious meeting, for Leadership Lake County. At this time, individuals presented budget requests for a cultural arts center, a library system, public lands, and a county pharmaceutical company. After the presentations, the Board heard public comment and took action on the items, in order to demonstrate the actual protocol of County business.

            Mr. Bill Neron, County Manager, explained that this is just a microcosm in the sense of what the Board goes through on a weekly basis, especially during the budget process. He explained that there are a lot of good programs, needs and wants in the County, but they have the difficulty of juggling those needs within the available resources. The Board had the opportunity of doing this yesterday at the Board Retreat where they discussed the proposed capital improvement program, which had about three times the number of projects than available money. Mr. Neron stated that they are through with this part of the Leadership Lake County agenda, and they will open the meeting up for questions.


            Impact Fees/Growth/Schools

            The Board members were presented with questions beginning with the issue of impact fees. Commr. Cadwell explained that it is the responsibility of the School Board to educate the children, and the Board’s responsibilities include the economy, affordable housing, and other things, which they have to take into consideration when addressing the issue of impact fees and, at the same time, they need to have a defensible impact fee. He explained that Osceola County now has the highest impact fee in the State of Florida, but it is in court, and the money is not doing anything, and hopefully, Lake County will get to a point where they will have a defensible impact fee that will assist the School Board, even though it is not going to answer all of their problems.

            Commr. Hill explained that the School Board has requested that the Board retain a law firm to look at the legal aspects of the consultant’s recommendations, and the Impact Fee Committee has met and has asked for four different monetary options to go with whatever comes back from the legal opinion.

            Mr. Neron pointed out that this is an advertised public meeting, so the Board can continue with their discussion of County issues.

            Commr. Hill noted that the information she is providing has already been discussed with the full Board. She continued by saying that the options will go back to the Impact Fee Committee and hopefully the legal opinion will be provided to them by November 18, 2004, and then it will come back to the Board for a final decision. She stated that hopefully they will have a final decision by a date in December, and the implementation of the impact fee will then be determined by this Board.

            Commr. Pool explained that it is important that all parties involved come to an agreement, and a defensible impact fee is determined so that the money is not tied up in the courts. He addressed the issue of growth noting that it is important not to stifle it by establishing a moratorium and to wait for the schools to catch up with growth would create somewhat of a disaster for the County by stifling the future of certain municipalities, and other areas of the County, that are currently facing their own growth and annexation issues that could generate a positive outcome for their economy and revenue.

            Commr. Cadwell stated that right now there is nothing in the County rules that says the Board can oppose a development because of the education element, and he thinks that they need to look at concurrency for education just like they do for transportation. He explained that they could put it in their own rules where, if there was not capacity, the developer would have to provide that capacity. At this time, he explained the process the County goes through to determine transportation concurrency. Commr. Cadwell stated that it will really upset the development community the day the County has concurrency as part of their Comprehensive Plan, because it will slow things down, and there will be even a larger commitment from the development community, if they want to develop. In terms of small developers versus large developers, Commr. Cadwell feels there is a threshold that they could use to determine whether they can be approved for development, and they have the County Attorney reviewing this issue where concurrency will kick in after a certain point.

            Commr. Hill stated that this issue was debated very heavily at the State level in Tallahassee, and she believes that the Governor did send out a Concurrency Commission, and this was to have been done statewide, but she does not know the status of the concurrency policy.

            Commr. Cadwell explained that it is his understanding that each individual County can still develop its own concurrency plan. He explained that there are great lobbyist groups that have more power than the counties, and they try to play the School Board against the County by offering them incentives but, whether it be additional real estate transaction fees, or whatever, it also includes giving away your home rule power to have impact fees, and philosophically, from a County standpoint, this Board opposes anything that will limit their ability to do that but most of the answers include local government giving up power. Also the classroom amendment size passed because the legislature has not been funding the schools like they should have all along, and that has added to the problem.

            Commr. Pool stated that the developers are recognizing that they are not going to be able to continue to build if they do not come up with lands and/or opportunities to build these schools, and to help fund these schools. One of the ideas was educational benefit districts where a developer would pay the impact fees and also increase the ad valorem taxes to build the schools in their area. If the developer is willing to provide the land, build the buildings, and fund it through his own growth, he feels that educational benefit districts might be a way of the future, and this, along with many other things that they are not touching on today, need to be discussed, so they need to be thinking outside of the box to get this done, and he feels that together they are going to work out the problems.

            A question was directed to the Board regarding whether or not there was a possibility that, through the planning process, the 55 and over communities will begin to pay impact fees like any other housing, and it was explained by the Board that is was the legislature that developed this loophole. It was noted that these developments do pay ad valorem taxes on an annual basis, and the law says that, for an impact fee to be an impact fee, there has to be a rational nexus to it, and these 55 and over communities do not contribute to the overcrowding in the schools, and they do not add additional students, so legally they cannot be charged an impact fee. It was stressed that these types of developments have to be deeded restricted communities.

            Mr. Jerry Hatfield, an long time educator in the school system, asked that the Board members take time to visit a co-teaching classroom, which has 44 children in it, even though it was built for 25 or 30 students, so that, before they talk to their legislature, they will see that the instructional conditions in most of these classrooms are untenable for their children, and their grandchildren. They need to have a visual awareness of the problem, just as those who have participated in Leadership Lake have a better awareness of the prison system, after their tour of the prison.

            Ms. Becky Elswick, School Board member, stressed the importance of understanding portable student stations, and the reality that those stations are temporary and not intended to be a long term solution. She explained that these portables are used as temporary stations to accompany growth until the next school can be built, and it becomes an issue when you let the growth get ahead of that construction.

            Mr. Neron thanked those individuals for participating in Leadership Lake and stated that, hopefully, they got a quick snapshot of what local government in Lake County is about and some of the issues that they are facing. Again they wanted to encourage those participating to provide their input, their ideas, and their service on committees and boards, both at the city and county level.

            There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 4:20 p.m.