For and Against: The Mobility Fee Moratorium (2013-094)

March 4, 2013 146 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

In what is shaping up to be a battle of David and Goliath, Metro Jacksonville continues to stand up to big business interests to illustrate how a three year moratorium (2013-094) on the mobility fee places Jacksonville's taxpayers in a bad financial position. Today, we respond to pro moratorium talking points sheet being used behind closed doors to convince City Council to subsidize all forms of new development without any system of checks and balances at the expense of their constituents.

1. FOR MORATORIUM: Mobility fees go to the Mobility Fund, not to the General Fund or to the School District, and can only be spent on items in the Mobility Plan, so the first waiver didn’t take away money for libraries, parks, schools, etc., and a second waiver would not either.

AGAINST MORATORIUM: Correct. Mobility fees are intended to fund the negative transportation impacts and eventual “multimodal” capacity enhancements needed by new construction over a 20-year horizon period.  Without the mobility fee, the burden of that infrastructure will be placed squarely on the backs of the everyday taxpayer. This scenario should be avoided at all costs if it can’t be proven without a doubt that the subsidy being asked of taxpayers, results in a fiscally viable ending.

2.  FOR MORATORIUM: The proposed waiver is not a moratorium; it is voluntary; and a developer can pay the mobility fee if desired.  Same with the first waiver period.

AGAINST MORATORIUM: The proposed three year waiver is redundant.  The mobility fee is voluntary right now because it already includes an option through the mobility fee credit adjustment system and project site selection process that can reduce a project’s mobility fee or eliminate it altogether.

Mobility Fee Credit Adjustment System (Location-based land use & transportation strategy page 13, credit adjustment system page 31):

3. FOR MORATORIUM: The money in the Mobility Fund can’t be spent on just any road, sidewalk, etc.; it can only be spent on the specified improvements in the Mobility Plan.  Examples include widening Philips to 6 lanes AND adding a bus rapid transit line AND a light rail line.  In fact, under the Mobility Plan 33% of all fees collected will be spent on 6-laning just three roads in the County.

AGAINST MORATORIUM: Mobility fees are intended to fund specified improvements in the Mobility Plan as an effort. These improvements will assist in guiding growth in a direction to where it is fiscally sustainable for Jacksonville taxpayers.

In Mobility Zones 1 and 8, the mobility fee will eventually fund the 25% local match required for a proposed commuter rail line between Downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine.  In the short term, mobility fees in those zones would fund the reconstruction of Philips Highway between Butler Boulevard and Baymeadows Road. This project would upgrade the rural roadway with pedestrian and bicycle facilities, creating an environment for transit oriented development for inner city bus lines and regional commuter rail.  See the community's vision for the Philips Highway corridor below.

With that said, 33% of all fees collected in the first set of priority projects would be spent on reconstructing Philips Highway, Normandy and Southside Boulevards to include transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and facilitate better automobile movement. However, these facilities will be funded by projects within their specific mobility zones and can be altered just as easy as placing a three year moratorium on the entire plan and fee.

Example: A Vision for Philips Highway - City of Jacksonville Southeast Vision Plan

Arlington, VA's Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is standard for sustainable land use planning and Smart Growth development because it concentrates development along a transportation artery with more intense areas of development at important intersections that include transit stations.

As illustrated below, the corridor bears a striking geographic resemblance to Philips Highway and provides an existing example of what the corridor could become in the future.  Philips Highway's economic and activity centers, future transit, and sufficient land depth has the potential to create a compatible transition to adjacent neighborhoods while achieving growth.

The intersection of Philips Highway and JTB, reimagined as a mixed-use node centered around mass transit.

City of Jacksonville Southeast Vision Plan

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