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Fee waiver proposal a good first step

February 11, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Cape Coral will consider a business development initiative already adopted in some form by the city of Bonita Springs, Lee County, and other areas hard-hit by the recession.

Councilmember Marty McClain is sponsoring an ordinance that would temporarily waive road impact fees when a change of use, or a new use, takes place in an existing building used for commercial purposes.

If approved, the ordinance proposed because of the Cape's "large inventory of vacant commercial, office and industrial buildings and units," would waive the fees for changes of use until Sept. 1, 2012, provided certain conditions are met. Conditions include that applicable road impact fees have been paid in full or, if deferred, will be paid in full equal to the square footage of the proposed improvement.

The ordinance also would give council the ability to extend the waiver program by resolution.

The proposal to be considered by council for the first time Monday is a good one, and we urge its approval when brought to a vote.

The waiver will help put Cape Coral on equal footing with other communities seeking to prevent blight while bringing in much-needed jobs.

For those concerned about the money, it's important to note that one, road impact fees have already been paid and two, it's a business incentive that costs nothing out of pocket. If anything, it addresses a fee structure that currently allows governments to go back in and re-tax - excuse us, re-fee - a building every time a little tax preparation service closes and a sandwich shop or dermatologist looks to open in the same location.

We also ask council to look beyond the fee waiver proposal on the table.

Lee and neighboring Collier and Charlotte counties are among various communities across the state that have cut, or are looking to cut, levies which add significantly to the cost of opening up a business.

Other areas also have taken such cuts a step further and addressed fees across the board.

Sarasota County, for example, just slashed road impact fees for new construction in half for the next two years and suspended school impact fees in their entirety for the same period. Manatee County, meanwhile, also has temporarily suspended school impact fees and cut road impact fees associated with new development in half.

Such reformation makes sense, and we again urge the Cape to follow suit - to indeed lead the charge - to cutting costs so as to put Cape Coral on competitive footing in a development-scare economy.

The change-of-use fee waiver is a good start - we may see a few less empty storefronts and office buildings.

Make it happen.

Then prioritize an across-the-board review of Cape Coral's impact fee structure, including residential.

It's a good way to maximize the potential of the development zone around the Veterans Administration medical clinic in the north Cape and the new Army Reserve Center just awaiting Congressional budget approval.

It's also the one thing the city actually can do to help put people back to work.

- Breeze Newspapers



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