Do You Care About Jacksonville's Future?

March 28, 2014 16 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville has been a supporter and advocate of the award-winning 2030 Mobility Plan and Fee because of its ability to transform Jacksonville into a fiscal and multimodal friendly community. However, the City Council is considering a bill that could lead to the mobility fee being utilized to fund the unsustainable development pattern that the 2030 Mobility Plan was intended to alleviate.

The 2030 Mobility Plan was instituted in 2011 as a land-use and transportation strategy to support a variety of transportation modes, reduce vehicle miles traveled, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote compact and interconnected land development and improve the health and quality of life for Jacksonville residents.

In a nutshell, the plan incentivizes new development projects that utilize existing infrastructure in denser, urban areas by requiring lower mobility fees in those areas than in suburban and rural areas. Assessed mobility fees fund roadway, pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvement projects to address mobility gaps and deficiencies. Specifically, the plan takes into account transit accessibility and connectivity, pedestrian-friendly urban design, mixed-used development and land-use density.

Between 2005-2009, Charlotte, NC witnessed 9.8 million square feet of new development built along the 9.6 Blue Line (light rail transit), representing a total of $1.8 billion in private development.  That kind of economic development, which hasn't been seen in Jacksonville's Northside and Urban Core in over 60 years, is something the 2030 Mobility Plan's transit projects are anticipated to help stimulate locally.

In 2011, shortly after the mobility fee was implemented, City Council enacted a moratorium—as many cities did—to spur development in the face of the challenging economy. With little proof that the moratorium achieved the full, desired effect, City Council allowed the moratorium to sunset in October 2012.

In early 2013, those financially benefiting from the city's fiscally unsustainable development pattern lobbied for an additional three year moratorium. After significant community opposition, the City Council settled on 18 months of reduced mobility fees as a compromise.

Less than a year after that compromise, those financially benefiting at the public's expense, by externalizing their development costs, are back at City Hall, searching for ways to further manipulate the plan and Jacksonville's future to their personal benefit.

A bill (2013-761) currently being considered by the Jacksonville City Council could devastate the purpose behind the Mobility Plan and convert the only funding mechanism Jacksonville currently has in place to become a more multi-modal friendly and fiscally efficient city, into one that promotes additional unsustainable sprawl.

The 2030 Mobility Plan was intended to resolve future roadway congestion while also encouraging economic development in areas where sufficient public infrastructure already exists. One project that would be funded by the Mobility Fee is the addition of sidewalks and a pedestrian overpass in the Arlington Expressway corridor.

About Bill 2013-761

Bill Type and Number: Ordinance 2013-761

Introducer/Sponsor(s): Council Member Bishop

Date of Introduction: November 26, 2013

Committee(s) of Reference: TEU, LUZ

Date of Analysis: November 28, 2013

Type of Action: Ordinance Code amendment
Bill Summary:

The bill amends Ordinance Code Chapter 655 – Concurrency and Mobility Management Fee – to permit a developer to obtain credit toward a mobility fee liability for complete construction and dedication of a transportation project not listed in the 2030 Mobility Plan, provided the project meets all applicable standards and is approved by the City Council. The amendment also explicitly provides that credit for donation of right-of-way for a transportation project may be transferred from the landowner who made the donation to other landowners or developers for payment of mobility fees owed on other projects within the same mobility zone as the zone in which the donation is made. The amendment also clarifies that in order to receive mobility fee credit for a privately constructed improvement, the improvement must be dedicated to the City.

Background Information:

The mobility fee system enacted by the City in 2011 to replace the former “fair share” system of private developer contributions to road construction and improvement provides that a private developer may only receive credit toward a mobility fee calculation for construction of a transportation improvement if that improvement is already listed on the City’s adopted 2030 Mobility Plan.  This bill provides that transportation projects that are not listed on the Mobility Plan, but which nevertheless help to increase overall mobility efficiency within a mobility zone, as demonstrated by professionally accepted standards and criteria, may be used to obtain mobility fee credit upon approval by the City Council.  The amendments regarding mobility fee credit for right-of-way donation being transferrable from one landowner or developer to another within a mobility zone and the requirement that an improvement be dedicated to the City are clarifications of existing practices that are not explicitly stated in the Code.
Policy Impact Area: Mobility fee system administration

Fiscal Impact: Undetermined

Analyst: Clements

source: City Council Research Division

The primary reason behind the push for the latest change is a pending construction of a road to serve a major new development straddling State Road 9B and Interstate 295 East Beltway.  Construction is already underway on a new interchange with State Road 9B at the "Cross Road" overpass.

What It Means

Approval of Bill 2013-761 as written could undermine the entire 2030 Mobility Plan and kill the "game changing" infrastructure projects the Mobility Fee has been set up to fund. Bill 2013-761 would allow a suburban developer to use their share of mobility funds to pay for infrastructure on their property that they'd have to invest in anyway.  In a situation where their infrastructure costs would exceed their mobility fee, the bill would allow the developer to sell the differing amount to other developers (thus multiple projects could shift their mobility fees from designated Mobility Plan priority projects.

What You Can Do

Despite the importance of the 2030 Mobility Plan and its impact on Jacksonville's future, the council has only heard from the development and bicycle/pedestrian community. We ask that those who are interested in Jacksonville becoming a more sustainable, healthy, environmentally respectful and multimodal friendly community, let your City Council members know your position.

2030 Mobility Plan priority roadway projects would be "context sensitive" and "multi-modal friendly" in design, such as this recent Kings Road pedestrian enhancement project on the campus of Edward Waters College.

Thank you for your time and consideration.