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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Apr. 11, 2019 12 months ago

Winter Park City Commission ponders transportation impact fees

The city is considering transportation impact fees to offset the impact development has on local traffic flow.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

While considering options to lighten the traffic on Winter Park’s major roads, city commissioners at their Monday, April 8, meeting discussed the possibility of placing transportation impact fees on certain development projects.

Today, Winter Park doesn’t have any fees a developer must pay to offset any added trips that impact traffic. Money from fees could go toward everything from sidewalks and bike paths to an added turn lane or signalization improvements, City Manager Randy Knight said. 

Currently, any transportation projects are pulled primarily from the general revenue fund for the city, Knight said.

“The concept of impact fees is that the burden of growth should not fall on existing taxpayers,” Knight said. “When you add the one trip … you’ve got to increase infrastructure to accommodate that growth.”

Although that’s not something the city can put in place whenever it wants, Knight said. A transportation impact fee requires a study that first identifies future transportation improvements and then equitably attributes the costs of those improvements to developers of projects that increase trips. 

For commercial developments, the number of new trips would determine the project’s impact, according to the staff report that accompanied Monday’s meeting agenda. 

Winter Park also has the option of pursuing mobility fees, which could be used to pay for operating items such as adding extra LYNX buses or more commuter rail service.

Winter Park Public Works Director Troy Attaway said the city’s Transportation Advisory Board is currently reviewing a new mobility plan — a study put together by the city with a consultant that takes into account pedestrians, bikes, transit and vehicles. 

“It basically gives a hierarchy of mobility, and it also defines some specific improvements that have been identified to date,” Attaway said. “I would say that it’s a living document in that other improvements can come along. There are specific improvements with dollar estimates to those improvements. I think that that is an important document to get in front of you.”

Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary suggested the commission wait for the mobility plan before it looks into possible funding sources for various projects.

“There is a desire among this commission and the rest of the city to try to figure out how to best manage traffic through the city,” Leary said. “We’re talking about transportation impact fees, but that may not be it.

“I think what we’re still coming back to is ‘what’s the best way to approach some for the traffic challenges we’re having in the city?’” he said. “Is it a transportation impact fee? I don’t know — I don’t think we have enough information to make that decision yet.”

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper insisted on taking action regarding traffic sooner rather than later.

“I have a very difficult time looking our residents in the face and telling them we’re doing everything we can to deal with traffic and congestion when dozens and dozens and dozens of Florida cities and municipalities and councils and counties have figured out how to implement impact fees within their jurisdiction,” Cooper said. “I find it very disingenuous that we are trying to work an issue, but we won’t work the issue. I really believe that we need a concrete step forward.

“You can’t walk down the aisle in a grocery store anymore,” she said. “We need to stop talking about it and starting doing something about it.”

The commission agreed to have city staff bring forward the mobility plan, with a potential work session to discuss it happening before or after it’s presented. The plan is expected to come before the commission in May or June.

Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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