Madeira Beach City Hall

Madeira Beach City Hall

MADEIRA BEACH — Developers of both commercial and residential properties will soon be paying impact fees to the city based on the size of their projects. The purpose is to help recover some of the costs to the city associated with development.

Fees will be assessed in three areas impacted by new developments and redevelopment of existing properties. There will be mobility fees for roads; health and safety fees for fire, EMS and police services; and fees to benefit parks and quality of life.

Recognizing the fees could have a negative impact on potential developments in the city, at least when first introduced, the commission decided to phase in the charges. The recommendation by Mayor John Hendricks was to charge a lesser amount, 40 percent of the total fee, during the first year after introducing the fee, then increasing it 10 percent each year for the next six years.

The mobility fee was approved in a 4-to-1 vote at the May 12 City Commission meeting. The health and safety and quality of life fees will be considered at upcoming meetings in June.

Impact fees have been adopted by other communities in Florida and the issue has been addressed by the state Legislature, but Madeira Beach would be the first beach community in Pinellas County to charge impact fees on developments.

Community Development Director Linda Portal said their purpose is to “provide the city with the resources it will need to meet the new impacts created by expanded development in a way that is appropriate and fair.”

Jerry Murphy, a planning consultant from the University of Florida who advised the commission on the workings of the impact fees, said, “Growth should pay for itself.”

While the ordinance up for approval was focused on the mobility fee, which would be $1.50 per square foot, the total cost of all three fees would be $14 per square foot, Murphy said. This is a one-time fee, charged at the time the building permit is issued. The largest fee by far is the parks/quality of life fee at $11.89 per square foot, while the Health and Safety fee is 60 cents per square foot.

Commissioner Doug Andrews said the fees will bring more money into the city to benefit the roads, public services and parks impacted by the development. But he said “there is a need to balance the taxes and spending without scaring away responsible development.”

With a costly project like the new Schooner hotel, Andrews said, “we could be throwing a monkey wrench into their plans by throwing in a substantial fee that they didn’t see coming when they bought the property.”

The $14 per square foot total fee “is a tremendous amount,” said Hendricks. “Rather than jamming development with that right off the bat, I would like to see us start off at a lower fee (40 percent) and ramp it up year by year.”

Commissioner Helen “Happy” Price said, “I’m all for this. I’d like to see some money coming in.”

Developers and residents who spoke on the impact fees were opposed to them, because of the added cost to projects.

Resident Ray Kerr pointed out that the fees affect not only commercial, but also residential construction. He said there are a number of residents in his neighborhood, including himself ,whose homes were damaged in Tropical Storm Eta, and in rebuilding and elevating their home would also like to expand the size. Adding another floor of 1,500 sq. ft. would have cost $21,000 in impact fees.

Developer Bill Karns said he liked the idea of getting money to maintain and improve the parks, which would include ROC Park on City Hall property, which he built. But he was also concerned about the added costs to development projects he is doing.

“The impact would be substantial,” Karns said. The full impact fee would have added over a million dollars to a condo building he is doing now, and would up the cost of another 27-unit condo building he is starting to pre-sell by $900,000, he said.

Karns said Madeira Beach is alone locally in imposing an impact fee. “Not one beach city in Pinellas County even has this on their agenda,” he said. “I’m appalled by the notion.”

Realtor and developer Jeff Beggins said people have a choice of where and when to develop.

“This is going to have an impact on redevelopment,” Beggins said. “It’s a lot easier to go somewhere else to build a house.”

The commission approved the mobility fee at 40 percent of the total fee beginning October 1 and increasing 10 percent a year for the next six years. Andrews voted no. This was second reading of the ordinance.

Fourth of July fireworks

After the fireworks event last year was canceled because of COVID, this year, the Fourth of July celebration will be back. The fireworks will be shot off from the Madeira Beach Fundamental School grounds near the water, in a display lasting 27 minutes.

The commission gave final approval to a contract with Fire Power, a company from Princeton, Florida to do the show, which will cost $30,000.

Recreation Director Jay Hatch said there were two proposals, one barge-based and the other land-based from the school. He chose the land option, Hatch said, “due to past challenges with barges and the inability to get one at an affordable price.”

Hatch said the city has an agreement with the school to have the fireworks set up there. The city used Fire Power several years ago for a barge show.

The fireworks display will be held “rain or shine,” Hatch said. “As long as it’s safe, we’re going to put them in the air,” he said. No COVID-related restrictions were mentioned.