TAMPA - Hillsborough County commissioners shot down a request Wednesday to give voters a say in the county's impact-fee-free zones.
Commissioner Pat Frank wanted to take the issue to the voters through a referendum in November but was denied in a 3-4 vote.
Such zones waive fees normally paid by builders to improve roads and connect to county water and sewer lines.
Supporters of the program say waiving impact fees encourages growth in depressed areas, makes it less expensive to build homes so cost savings can be passed on to people who might not otherwise be able to afford homes, and increases property tax revenues.
However, Frank said the county took a $130-million hit as a result of the zones and that big developers were benefitting.
"It is not a lollipop to be handed out to developers who can shift the development mix at will," said Lynn McGarvey, conservation chair for the Tampa Bay Sierra Group. "Developers know that land is precious and they are laughing at us all the way to the bank."
However, Commissioner Jim Norman said the program was doing its job. He pointed to the USF area, which has gained businesses such as a beauty school and a car dealership.
Also casting dissenting votes were commissioners Kathy Castor, Ken Hagan and Thomas Scott.