NAPLES, FL-Money talks and in this affluent community on the Gulf of Mexico shores, 13 golf course developers charge Collier County is talking too loudly. The developers contend the county is overstating their road impact fee amounts by a total $1.3 million or about $100,000 per course.

The developers are threatening to take the issue to court. The county isn’t backing down. Naples is 90 miles northwest of Downtown Miami.

The developers argue they should be paying less than conventional office or industrial sites because the road traffic isn’t as great at or near golf courses as it is at most commercial ventures. One golf course development, the Strand, claims an alternative impact fee calculation would have lowered its $184,570 bill by $150,000.

The county replies that the standard $1,066 per-acre charge will remain unchanged but will not charge the developers for preserves and retention ponds not involved in regular golf activity on the courses. The issue flared when the county rejected a request by developers to assess the fees based on usuable acreage at each golf course. Instead, the county instructed its staff to set the fee amounts on industry standards used at other golf courses across the country. The developers maintain this approach is unconstitutional and will use that argument in court.

The controversy was triggered by an April government audit. The county learned its staff didn’t collect $2.4 million in golf course impact fees over the past five years. The staff also had discounted $900,000 on impact fees without telling county commissioners and without asking the developers to prepare traffic engineering studies to support the discounts.

The county previously has allowed developers to open courses before paying the entire amount of the fees. That practice has been stopped. Future courses won’t open until the developers all of what they owe. Naples has a permanent population of 20,000 with a per capita income of $50,000, among the highest in the United States.

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