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Impact-fee-free zones may be cut or scaled back

By Times Staff Writer
Published October 26, 2005

TAMPA - Frederick Vonderheid has lived in Gibsonton for 25 years, but after 18 months of rampant home construction spurred by a Hillsborough County program that waives building fees for rural or depressed areas, he barely recognizes it.

"It's not pleasant to live here anymore," Vonderheid said. "The roads just can't take any more of this. They need to get the people responsible for this growth to start paying for it."

On Tuesday, Commissioner Ronda Storms said it was time for commissioners to shrink or eliminate some of the impact-fee-free zones she has supported since 2000 as a way to spark development in economically depressed areas.

Commissioners created zones in Gibsonton, Ruskin, Wimauma, Palm River, Causeway, East Lake-Orient Park, Town 'N Country, and in an area near the University of South Florida. The zones have cost the county nearly $14-million in fees developers would have paid for roads and water and sewer pipes since January 2004.

Gibsonton by far was the leader, getting about $11-million in waived fees. Since the zones were created, more than 2,000 homes have been approved for the once-depressed area.

"We've done a good thing. We have helped those areas that needed help," Storms said.

But many of the people who live in these areas, Storms said, are being "crushed" by development because the rates of growth are so high. Residents in Palm River have signed a petition asking commissioners to eliminate the zone.

By December, commissioners expect to consider which zones to eliminate or shrink. Commission Chairman Jim Norman, a big supporter of the zones, suggested more zones could even be created.

[Last modified October 26, 2005, 00:44:15]

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