NORTH PORT — The City Commission is studying ways to alter the city’s impact fees for commercial construction to try to spark business growth.
In a two-hour meeting Monday morning, the North Port commissioners pointed to a Cape Coral impact fee model that appears to be bringing new businesses to that area.
Local governments like North Port charge impact fees on new construction to help pay for improvements the city must make to serve the new construction. This can include building roads, expanding water and sewer systems, building new fire house and police facilities. In the past 12 months, North Port took in $4.1 million in impact fees
The impact fees discussed at Monday’s meeting were for commercial and industrial projects, as opposed to impact fees for new homes. City officials say North Port needs to work with commercial developers to bring the right kinds of facilities to the city.
City commissioners pointed out that any impact fee revisions must take into account the company’s use of clean energy, number of new employees and the type of industry. Other factors may be developed.
In the Cape Coral model, the city either defers or waives the impact fees for new or expanding businesses that meet the city’s criteria.
“The Cape Coral plan is a good place for us to start,” said Mel Thomas, North Port’s director of economic development.
Thomas said North Port “can certainly be innovative” in ways to waive or defer impact fees.
In a forum hosted Friday by the city’s economic development team, several national experts on site selection for businesses said North Port needs to ensure its infrastructure was “shovel-ready” for expanding or relocating companies. Now the city commission is looking for ways to hasten the rate of development.
Vice Mayor Debbie McDowell said she wants to rule out granting any waivers of the fees and have the city concentrate on deferrals.
Several members of the audience, however, warned the panel to not rule out waivers.
“You don’t want to corner yourselves going forward,” said Rich Suggs, a candidate in the commission election next year. “You may need a waiver at some point.”
Thomas urged the panel to come up with revisions that mirror Sarasota County’s processes.
“That would help us do this quickly,” she said.
In the end, the panel asked city staff to come up with a impact fee proposal for them to consider at a future full commission meeting.
Mayor Chris Hanks was not present at the meeting due to a family emergency.