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ORLANDO-Lake County school officials, under pressure to build more new schools to house a surging student population, are considering restricting development of new subdivisions and imposing stiffer impact fees for residential, retail and commercial developers.

Orlando consultants Henderson, Young and Co. are completing recommendations for new impact fees that are expected to infuriate builders and help school construction budgets. The new fee schedule was supposed to kick in on Oct. 1, the start of local government’s fiscal year.

But the consultants couldn’t obtain the needed demographics on Lake County households to finish their report, school board staffers tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

School enrollment of 31,710 is up 1,300 students over 2001, according to the Lake County school board.

“Higher impact fees aren’t the answer,” a representative for one of Lake County’s largest developers tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “If the county, which is known for its pro-growth stance, would strictly enforce its comprehensive land use plan, builders would work with them in construction new classrooms in the new subdivisions.”

Lake officials are considering copying the Martinez Plan used in Orange County and named for Mel Martinez, the secretary of the federal Housing and Urban Development agency and former county chairman.

Under the Martinez concept, which courts have upheld, a school board can reject rezoning for new residential projects simply by arguing the area needs more new schools ahead of new homes. The East Central Florida Regional Planning Council in Winter Park, FL adopted a similar policy in June.

Lake officials have been studying revised impact fees since February for all categories of new development. Fast-food restaurant developments could take the biggest hit–up 869.1% from $1,182 per 1,000 sf of space to $17,706.

General commercial projects, such as strip retail centers of 50,000 sf to 200,000 sf could face an increase of 260.4%, from $604 per 1,000 sf of development to $2,177.

Office ventures in the 30,000-sf to 100,000-sf category may get off easy, looking at only a 5.7% increase–from $2,727 per 1,000 sf to $2,883. Industrial product impact fees would go up by 13.1%, from $1,907 per sf in the general light industry category to $2,157. Industrial parks themselves face a 46% fees increase.

Single-family development faces a 63% hike–from $1,343 to $2,189. Existing one-time impact fees assessed to builders for schools range from $77 for a two-bedroom mobile home to $1,739 for a four-bedroom residence. For the current school year, impact fees are projected to generate about $3.65 million. Total existing impact fees generate $9.2 million to the county’s cash register.

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