When it comes to city planning, Jacksonville is sometimes known more for it’s missteps than what it does right. The 2030 Mobility Plan could change all that. This innovative plan provides a framework to integrate rail, pedestrian, bicycle and road transportation planning with land use strategies that combat unsustainable sprawl. Something we are all too familiar with. Many in Jacksonville have come to the conclusion that investing only in roadway construction to transport people about the city will not work forever. Other forms of mobility, or moving around the city, must be considered to create a city that will not collapse under the weight of ever expanding borders and strains on municipal resources.
First, it provides a framework to integrate land development, with mobility (pedestrians, bicycles, transit and roads) and gives developers incentives to embrace smart growth principles, like gridded streets, in their project’s design.
Second, it lays out a mobility fee that all developers must pay when starting new projects in the city. Developments further from the city core that put more wear and tear on the streets and infrastructure will result in higher project mobility fees.
The Mobility Plan and Fee were designed to implement the Vision Plans of the community created between 2003 - 2010.
The Mobility Plan is intended to resolve multiple problems in Jacksonville. These include the need for safer streets, healthier neighborhoods, a fair “concurrency” system, and integrating transportation and land use development for fiscally sustainable growth patterns. The mobility fee serves as the funding source to implement these concepts. With Jacksonville’s revenue sources shrinking every year, the mobility fee provides the city with a fair path to invest in itself, stimulating job creation, quality of life enhancements, and economic growth in the process.
Between October 19, 2011 and September 12, 2011, City of Jacksonville Planning & Development Department records show that only 21% of mobility fee waivers have resulted in building permits. 70% of mobility fee waivers have not started design or have expired. In addition, the booming St. Johns Town Center area is considered a Transportation Management Area (TMA). The TMA is exempt from the waiver, meaning all of that new development has continued to pay a fee to take advantage of market opportunities around the town center. This information suggests that there may not be a rational nexus between the moratorium and market realities.
The mobility fee was developed to replace Jacksonville’s Fair Share Agreement program. As a result of it’s creation, its implementation results in a significant reduction in impact fees for new development.
An impact fee is a fee that is imposed by a local government on a new or proposed development project to pay for all or a portion of the costs of providing public services to the new development. Impact fees 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.
Area building permits over the last year also suggest that there is no rational nexus between the mobility fee moratorium and market realities. Despite charging an impact fee of $11,795 per new home, more new permits were pulled in St. Johns County than in Duval, Clay, and Nassau County’s combined. Duval, Clay, and Nassau Counties have suspended their fees. While growth still lags in these three counties, St. Johns is using their money generated to further invest in a school system that already is pulling families from Jacksonville.
Looking outside of our region, the mobility fee moratorium has not resulted in the type of job growth and economic stimulation desired, when councilmembers approved the concept in 2011. Despite not charging a fee for new development to cover its negative impacts on the surrounding infrastructure network, Jacksonville had the second lowest rate of job growth out of Florida’s metropolitan areas with 500,000 or more residents.
In recent weeks, some have reported that LA Fitness, which is currently constructing four new locations in Jacksonville, would not have entered the market without the prescene of the mobility fee moratorium. However, the fact is that LA Fitness signed a master development agreement before the moratorium went into place.
Additionally, the concurrency (fair share) cost associated with that project went down DRAMATICALLY under the Mobility Plan and fee. Under the old fair share program, the developer would have had to pay $993,448 in concurrency payments. Under Mobility, the developer would have had to pay $247,448 in mobility fees, resulting in a reduction of 75%.
Furthermore, three of four LA Fitness sites under construction would not have had to pay a mobility fee even if the moratorium were not in place because they are being developed in existing underutilized shopping centers.
The basic economics of supply and demand highlights the true reason the moratorium has not had the desired impact on Jacksonville’s economy. Current vacancy rates indicate that our market remains an overbuilt one.
Our current budget situation also highlights that our previous land development patterns were nothing more than an elaborate ponzi scheme based off continuous growth. Many similar communities have discovered that investing in themselves to enhance their quality-of-life leads to more fiscally durable public budgets. If Jacksonville desires to move to the next level, the mobility plan and fee serves as a great method to take us there. On the other hand, extending the moratorium successfully accomplishes is effectively placing the financial burden of new development on public infrastructure on the backs of the already struggling Jacksonville taxpayer.
What You Can Do?
Allowing the moratorium to rightfully sunset will place Jacksonville in a position to create additional jobs by investing in itself while also making the streets and mobility options, reliable and safe for all. In addition, ending this subsidy will reduce the tax burden the moratorium has placed on the backs of average everyday residents just trying to survive.
With this in mind, the City of Jacksonville’s future needs its concerned residents will power more than ever. It is possible that a bill will be introduced at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 9, 2012. Attendance at the October 9 meeting will be important to speak for the sunset of the moratorium and letters of support from residents and organizations showing how the mobility plan will help them are also important.
Tuesday October 09, 2012
Jacksonville City Council Chambers at City Hall 117 West Duval St., First Floor Jacksonville, FL 32202