The Mobility Fee Compromise: Winners & Losers

April 11, 2013 28 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

On Tuesday night, the Jacksonville City Council approved a modified version of Councilman Clark's bill that called for a three year, 100% waiver of mobility fees in an effort to stimulate the continued construction of unsustainable new development at the expense of the taxpayer. Today, Metro Jacksonville's Ennis Davis shares what the bill means for Jacksonville and identifies winners and losers from the modified legislation.

What This Means For Jacksonville: Winners & Losers

There is a cause and effect with every decision we make that extends beyond 117 West Duval Street.  With that said, here is a brief list of winners and losers.


Commercial Land Speculators

Any resident who has owned property prior to the recent recession has seen their investment sink faster than the Titanic in 1912. Those who made speculative commercial land acquisitions in fringe areas of the city were just provided access to a temporary life raft at the expense of the rest of the community.

New Construction Gas Stations & Fast Food Restaurants on Greenfield Sites

Find a congested roadway in Jacksonville and I'll promise you, it's lined with fast food restaurants, drive thurs, and gas stations. These high turnover commercial uses are typically a major culprit in the decline of public roadway infrastructure and traffic conditions.  Concepts such as concurrency and the mobility fee attempt to make such generators fund their fair share of improvements needed for the surrounding public infrastructure network to support their existence.

Expect to see the majority of projects taking advantage of the latest subsidy being low wage, high automobile traffic generating uses.  However, before we claim unbridled job growth, remember market dynamics are still at play.  Thus, it's not unrealistic to see one gas station open while another existing one closes, leaving established neighborhoods and commercial corridors with additional blighted properties to address.

Peer Communities

Jacksonville is blessed with a natural landscape and a logistical physical location that draws the envy of many peer communities.  However, when opportunities arise to take advantage of our assets and resident's innovation and creative, we're just as liable to shoot ourselves in the foot as we are to get off the couch and open the door that opportunity is knocking on.

Nationally, for the foreseeable future, the so-called millennials (currently ages 18-30) will drive both the housing market and the fast-growing innovation economy. It’s a huge cohort of about 70 million people. The cities that are slow to attempt to cater to this group, place themselves in an economic disadvantage to those that do. The quote below by William Fulton, the mayor of Ventura, California, sums up this situation:

Most people settle down by age 35, and usually don’t move from one metro area to another after that. And the demographic group behind the millennials is a lot smaller. Just like baby boomers, the preferences of the millennials will drive our society for two generations. They’re making location decisions based on their idea of quality of life. And they’re going to make all those decisions in the next few years -- by the time they’re 35.

So if you’re not one of the hip places today, you have only a few years -- the length of one real estate cycle and the time horizon for planning an infrastructure project -- to become hip enough to keep your kids and attract others.

This might seem like a daunting, if not insurmountable, challenge, but frankly I’m encouraged by what I see. Over the last six months I’ve been to many second-tier cities -- Omaha, Neb.; Oklahoma City; Richmond, Va.; Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y.; and Manchester, N.H., among them -- that would not to be good candidates for a hip urban core. Yet they’re all developing one.

The mobility plan and fee structure is a policy that advances Jacksonville in a direction of creating a strong environment that's attractive to millennials.  Continuing to neutering the impact of this policy in favor of squeezing out an extra 7-Eleven or Family Dollar does the exact opposite. Consider this an economic win for the Charlotte's, Salt Lake City's and Charleston's of the country.

Next Page: Losers

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