ORLANDO-Facing an $8.7 million budget shortfall next year, elected Lake County officials are scratching for new revenue-generating sources and think they have found the first in increased road impact fees for commercial developments.

For example, the one-time development charge for fast-food ventures on Oct. 1 goes to $17,706 per unit, an 869% increase from $1,827. General commercial projects will be paying $2,177 per project, up 261% from $604.

Light industrial jobs will see fees go to $2,157 from $1,907. Developers of single-family homes in the 1,500-sf to 2,500-sf range will be paying $2,189 per home, up 63% from $1,343.

“These read like tremendous increases for a county with only 250,000 permanent residents but national retailers, restaurants and hotels already have discovered Lake County as an inexpensive place to build their projects compared with more densely populated areas nearby in Orlando, Daytona Beach and South Florida,” Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services, Winter Park, FL, tells GlobeSt.com.

For some homeowners, the only bright point in the new fee calendar appears to be in the county’s new rating concept. The revised rates will be based on total square footage instead of the number of bedrooms. That means smaller residences will be paying lower impact fees.

Most builders are not pleased with the rate hikes because they immediately raise the cost of the residence. That often places the builder at a price disadvantage with a competitor, area builders tell GlobeSt.com.

Bill Neron, the $117,000-a-year Lake County manager, estimates the new road fee schedule will generate revenue of $168 million over the next 20 years. The county also plans to raise impact fees on developments for new schools, fire services, parks, libraries, law enforcement and new jail and prison expansions.

Lake County is projecting revenue of $71.1 million for 2003 at a time when county departments need $79.8 million to operate. Property taxes are also expected to increase by $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

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