- July 29, 2016
WINTER GARDEN — To ensure Winter Garden will have enough money to pay for the additional police, fire and recreational services the city will need as it grows, commissioners voted to raise impact fees on future development.
Winter Garden hired a consultant, Public Resources Management Group, to study the city’s projected growth and recommend appropriate impact fees. The commission voted to accept the report’s recommendations to raise police and protection fees from $260 to $339; fire and rescue from $340 to $491; and recreation from $671 to $1,300, for a total increase of 67% from $1,271 to $2,130 for a single-family residence. Commercial developments such as professional offices and retail stores will pay fire and police impact fees but not recreation fees.
“The primary way we make sure development pays for itself is by impact fees,” City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said.
He also noted that Winter Garden had not raised impact fees in several years, and the city needed higher impact fees to serve its growing population. He cited the city’s need for additional recreational space and parks, a new fire station in the Marsh Road area and additional police stations as some of the projects the city will need to finance in the near future. If impact fees were not raised, the city would be forced to raise revenue either by increasing property taxes, raising fees or through other means, he said. Without additional revenue, the city would need to reduce services.
The city reduced impact fees five years ago, and even with the current increase, the city’s impact fees remain lower than they were before the reduction. Winter Garden’s proposed impact fees remain lower than cities such as Ocoee and Apopka.
“There’s been absolutely no opposition to this,” Bollhoefer said, citing letters from developers supporting the increase.
Mayor John Rees agreed.
“We all recognize the fact that development should pay for itself,” he said.
The commission voted 4-0 in favor of the ordinance; Commissioner Bobby Olszewski was not at the meeting. The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the next meeting, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22. If the ordinance passes at that meeting, the increase will take effect on March 1.
More than 36 police officers, firefighters and rescue personnel were present as Rees proclaimed the week of Jan. 5 to 9 as “Florida First Responder Appreciation Week.” The proclamation encourages “all Floridians to take time out of their day to show first responders and their families how much we value their service.”
Before reading the proclamation, Rees specifically mentioned Winter Garden residents Scott Pine and Robert German, who died in the line of duty last year in Orange County.