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Impact fees may drop near Westshore

City Council members concerns over affordable housing have prompted a study to look at cutting road impact fees.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 12, 2002


The cost to build a home near WestShore mall and International Plaza may be going down.

Over the next few months, Tampa transportation officials will look into lowering the amount area property owners pay in impact fees to offset local road projects.

The study covers the impact fee district bound by Kennedy Boulevard on the south, Himes Avenue on the east and the city limits on the west and north.

The move comes in response to some City Council members' concerns that the fees are too high in Carver City/Lincoln Gardens, an older, working-class neighborhood just north of Kennedy.

Property owners in the Westshore district pay at least $2,077 in transportation impact fees to build a house, the most of anyone citywide. New Tampa pays $1,632 and downtown pays $716. The areas of West Tampa, East Tampa and Tampa Heights are exempt.

Council member Gwen Miller has argued the high fees discourage residential development in Carver City. They also don't jive with the city's efforts to get more people to live near their jobs.

The fees apply to people building new houses or adding significant square footage to their existing homes. The Westshore district has hundreds of vacant parcels, including about 50 in the Carver City/Lincoln Gardens area.

The city receives about $2-million to $3-million a year in transportation impact fees, a relatively small amount in the overall transportation budget. Fees collected in a district must be spent in the district.

Any reduction would extend to the entire district, which includes Bon Air and Westshore Palms, said Elton Smith, Tampa's head of transportation.

"We can't adjust for one neighborhood and ignore the next neighborhood," he said.

The city bases the fees on the cost of land and the number of times people drive in and out of their homes. Generally, land costs more in urban areas than suburban ones. Homes, in theory, generate more trips than smaller apartments.

Tampa started the impact fees in 1987 as a way to raise money for neighborhood road projects. A few years ago, the council reduced fees in the downtown district to spark interest in downtown living. Currently, the city is reviewing Ybor City's fees.

At this point, Smith doesn't know how much the city would lose if it lowers impact fees in the Westshore area. Reductions would likely range from a few to several hundreds of dollars.

Smith plans to present the study to the council in 60 to 90 days, after going over it with residents.

Thelma Davis, of the Carver City/Lincoln Gardens homeowners association, cautioned against taking money away for much-needed road projects. The impact fees have paid for the widening of Himes and additional turning lanes at West Shore and Kennedy boulevards.

"We got to wait until they come back with the study," she said. "We haven't had a lot of complaints."

-- Times staff writer David Karp and correspondent Eve Hosley-Moore contributed to this report. Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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