ST. PETE BEACH — In the early part of 2022, anyone building a multi-family development or new home will likely have to pay a parks and recreation impact fee.

Andy Bernham, a vice president with Stantec, the consulting group that worked on a city study of the issue, explained that an impact fee is a one-time charge on new development or redevelopment to capture the cost of expansion. It’s not intended to be used for renewal, replacement or rehabilitation of existing facilities.

Under the proposal discussed at the Dec. 14 city commission meeting, a builder of a single-family home would pay a parks and rec impact fee of $1,187, while a developer of a multifamily project would pay $843 per unit.

Assist City Manager Vincent Tenaglia said the issue goes back to 2015 when the city entered into a negotiated settlement agreement.

“There were a number of studies contemplated by that settlement agreement, one of which was an impact fee study,” Tenaglia noted. The city evaluated potential impact fees in 2016, he said, and Stantec identified three different types of fees the city could implement. They ultimately were not implemented.

Tenaglia said he and City Manager Alex Rey have taken a closer look at the subject and re-engaged Stantec.

“Ultimately, we’ll be recommending implementing a parks and recreation impact fee; this would be intended to capture expenses associated with the expansion of parks and rec-related facilities,” he said.

If adopted, St. Pete Beach would have the fourth-highest single-family parks and rec impact fee of other Pinellas cities cited in the study. Madeira Beach is highest with $6,069 on a single-family home, Largo is second at $4,086 and Tarpon Springs third at $1,193. The consultant noted Madeira Beach and Largo’s fees may be higher because of additional items added into their charges. The cheapest is Pinellas Park, with an impact fee of $262, with Safety Harbor second-cheapest at $315.

Under a staff proposal, a property owner will not be charged to demolish and rebuild a single-family house; however, a developer adding dwelling units to a multi-family structure will have to pay a fee on the additional units.

Since park and recreational facilities predominantly benefit residential properties, city staff noted the impact fee will not be applied to nonresidential development. The city could also adopt a lower, but not higher, impact fee than determined by the study.

The commission will also have to determine whether to put a time limit on a vacant lot that formerly included a development, to determine when or if a fee will be imposed. However, the city could just require new construction on a vacant lot to pay the impact fee.

Mayor Al Johnson noted the devil is in the details.

“You don’t want a large commercial development that is going to be building residential units to get in under the wire,” Rey noted. “Our recommendation from the staff point of view is that we adopt (the entire single-family fee), because the philosophy we have heard through the Comp Plan and community is new development should pay their fair share, and not to give them a discount. So while you have the ability to give a discount, we’re recommending that you go with developments paying the full rate.”

The city manager said the city plans to bring the issue back before the City Commission for a first reading in January, with a second reading in February; the city will have to wait 90 days to implement fees once approved.

Shocking development on pier project

Reconstruction work on the Merry Pier literally became a shocking experience for members of the contractor’s dive team working under the bait shop.

Public Works Director Mike Clarke told city commissioners one change order was immediately necessary to provide grounding for the pier’s bait shop electrical panel.

In his written report, Clarke wrote “an ungrounded panel caused the Kelly Brothers dive team to experience minor shocks while working in the water beneath the pier.”

During the commission meeting, he explained, “Unbeknownst to the contractor, and we didn’t catch it either on our side, there was a short, and the diver who was in the water was (shocked), not harmed, but got a good buzz. It was because we had electricity discharging into the water.”

Clarke said Public Works authorized the contractor to immediately make repairs.

Another change order included additional hardware and mooring piles, which Clarke said were “quite logical additions to the contract.”

“I really does look great,” he said of the Merry Pier restoration. “We want to finish it up properly.”

The original contract amount was $1,000,000, Clarke noted. Change orders will bring the current contract amount to $1,587,200, he advised.