City Council Prepares to Halt Mobility Fee

October 6, 2011 242 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The majority of the Jacksonville City Council is on board with implementing a mobility fee moratorium (Ordinance 2011-617) that would result in Jacksonville taxpayers subsidizing the private development's negative impacts on public infrastructure 100%.

The council's "hope" is that this will encourage development in a community where over 50% of residential properties are currently underwater and office vacancy rates hover at 21%.  To date, there is little to no evidence for such an action significantly stimulating private sector development in market conditions that can't support it.  

If a moratorium is approved and ends up in successful, it may be the first success on a policy position where many public entities have failed.  With this in mind, here is a brief editorial by, California based fiscal, economic and planning firm, TischlerBise on why a mobility fee moratorium may not be in Jacksonville's best interest.

5 Reasons Not to Reduce or Waive Impact Fees in an Economic Downturn

by TischlerBise Fiscal & Economic Newsletter

Many elected officials are considering or being pressured by outside groups (e.g., home builders) to either waive, reduce or enact moratoriums related to impact fees, claiming that it will act as a means of stimulating new development and new economic activity. Some local governments around the country have already suspended or eliminated their impact fees in an attempt to encourage development. To date there is no evidence of the efficacy of this action.

When considering the multitude of factors that comprise the cost of development, impact fees are a relatively minor cost component (usually 1 to 5%). The ability to obtain favorable financing, depressed market conditions, excess inventories of existing developments, and the cost of labor and materials have a much greater influence on the total cost of development. Another point to consider is the impact local government spending has on the economy.

According to a recent publication prepared for ICMA by the Alliance for Innovation entitled “Navigating the Fiscal Crisis: Tested Strategies for Local Leaders,” nearly all the economics literature reviewed estimates that cutting local government expenditures hurts local economic recovery more than raising taxes. The positive effect of local government spending is particularly strong for facilities and services that have a direct relationship to business and industry (i.e., roads, bridges, water, sewer and other basic infrastructure).

There are five reasons not to reduce, waive or eliminate impact fees:

1. A suspension or elimination of impact fees raises a general question of fairness and equal treatment between those who recently paid the full fee amounts and those who will now not pay the fees. Case law requires that impact fee payers receive a “benefit.” An important consideration is how the previous payers of the full fee amount receive their “benefit” if a community is not able to fully fund the growth-related capital improvements upon which the fees are based. Communities could face the choice of having to subsidize new development with General Fund dollars or refunding millions of dollars to previous fee payers in order to avoid equal protection challenges.

2. Impact fees are an important component of “economic stimulus.” Investments in infrastructure are being touted in both Washington, DC and State capitals around the country as stimulating the economy and creating much needed jobs. Since impact fees can only be used for growth-related infrastructure, the suspension or elimination of development fees and the loss of subsequent infrastructure investments by local governments would appear to be contradictory to this effort to restore the economy.

3. The demand for additional infrastructure capacity from new development does not disappear if impact fees are reduced. Suspending or eliminating fees will require communities to subsidize the impacts of new development with other revenues (most likely from the General Fund). The alternative is declining levels-of-service as existing infrastructure networks become more burdened with additional demand.

4. Having sufficient infrastructure capacity is a competitive advantage that enhances the economic development potential of a community.

5. Finally, as stated previously, there is little evidence that suggests eliminating or suspending impact fees encourages new development activity.


a. TischlerBise Fiscal & Economic Newsletter -



What Is An Impact Fee?

An impact fee is a fee that is implemented by a local government on a new or proposed development to help assist or pay for a portion of the costs that the new development may cause with public services to the new development within the United States. They are considered to be a charge on new development to help fund and pay for the construction or needed expansion of offsite capital improvements. These fees are usually implemented to help reduce the economic burden on local jurisdictions that are trying to deal with population growth within the area.

What Is A Mobility Fee?

The 2030 Mobility Plan & Fee is designed to fund infrastructure improvements in Jacksonville that will give our community a viable list of quality-of-life enhancing mobility options.

A Mobility fee is an impact fee that covers the cost of building public infrastructure needed to support the impacts caused by new development.  Jacksonville's award winning 2030 Mobility Plan and Fee would tie transportation and land use strategies together and generate funding for road, mass transit, pedestrian and bicycle network improvements throughout the city through 2030.  If there's no fee for new development, that means Jacksonville won't generate the funding needed to construct public infrastructure projects that will produce job creation, curb the proliferation of sprawl, create the type of urban environment and quality of life that results in the economic benefits we claim we want.

Ordinance 2011-617

With little fanfare, this bill has swiftly moved through Council and under the nose of the local media.  Ordinance 2011-617 will have its final City Council hearing on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 5 PM.

Ordinance 2011-617 could result in delayed economic, job creation, and revitalization opportunities for several Jacksonville neighborhoods, including Downtown, the Northside and Arlington by delaying priority infrastructure projects partially designed to stimulate sustainable redevelopment in distressed areas.  For example, Milwaukee's current streetcar project is expected to create 9,000 new housing units, 13,500 new residents, 20,500 new jobs and $3.35 billion in new tax base over the next 20 years.  This is the type of economic opportunity that would be delayed in Jacksonville by enacting a moratorium on mobility fees.

What A Mobility Fee Moratorium Means For Jacksonville

Ultimately, Jacksonville has the natural setting, cultural assets and physical amenities to become anything it wants to be.  However, to become a destination and not a pass through, we've got to overcome the one entity that has held our community back.  

That entity is ourselves and our inability to take a holistic approach with each issue that fronts our community.  Abruptly adopting an ordinance that will result in the public subsidizing private development without viable proof that such a concept will work could be devastating to Jacksonville competing in the 21st century marketplace.

Although their intentions are good, the Council should not rush to implement a mobility fee moratorium that could hamper Jacksonville economically without thoroughly vetting such a concept with the public.  

How You Can Get Involved

The decision at hand could burden taxpayers millions of dollars and indefinitely delay infrastructure projects that will place Jacksonville in a position to compete against peer communities such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville and Norfolk.

Until the Council officially approves this subsidy and the Mayor signs on, perhaps there is a chance to defer the final decision until statistical data can be publicly submitted that compares the pros and cons of having a moratorium verses keeping the mobility fee.  

You can help encourage council and the mayor's office to do the right thing by giving them a call or brief email explaining your position on this important issue for Jacksonville future.

•             Mayor Alvin Brown's Office  630-1776

•             District 1 Clay Yarborough  630-1389

•             District 2  William Bishop  630-1392

•             District 3 Richard Clark  630-1386

•             District 10 Don Redman  630-1394

•             District 5  Lori N. Boyer  630-1382
•             District 6  Matt Schellenberg  630-1388

•             District 7 Dr. Johnny Gaffney  630-1384

•             District 8 E. Denise Lee  630-1385

•             District 9 Warren Jones  630-1395

•             District 10 Reggie Brown  630-1684

•             District 11 Ray Holt  630-1383    

•             District 12 Doyle Carter  630-1380

•             District 13 Bill Guilliford  630-1397

•             District 14 Jim Love  630-1390

•             At Large 1 Kimberly Daniels  630-1393

•             At Large 2 John R. Crescimbeni  630-1381

•             At Large 3 Stephen Joost  630-1396

•             At Large 4 Greg Anderson  630-1398

•             At Large 5 Robin Lumb  630-1387

Editorial by Ennis Davis