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Possible court battle brewing over mobility fees in Port St. Lucie

Posted at 6:05 PM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 18:05:00-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — As Port St. Lucie continues to boom, city leaders are looking at the best ways to get people around, whether by car, bus, bike, or on foot.

This month, the city implemented a new mobility plan and fee for new development.

"A mobility plan is a new way of looking at how cities and counties can address transportation needs," said Port St. Lucie City Manager Russ Blackburn.

As opposed to an impact fee, that primarily pays for roads, Blackburn said a mobility fee allows them to be more flexible, "Mobility fees can be used for plane miles, they can be used for sidewalks, they can be used for multi-purpose paths."

Current residents and property owners do not pay this fee.

But the fee isn’t without controversy.

Last week, St. Lucie County Commissioners agreed to pursue legal action against the city.

"The concern we have is they’ve included the county’s road network in their plan without our permission," said County Administrator Howard Tipton.

Tipton says the county’s impact fees have been in place since 1985, and an agreement was signed with the city ten years ago for Port St. Lucie to collect all the city and county impact fees.

In addition, Tipton said 96% of the impact fees collected by the county will be spent on county road projects within two miles of the Port St. Lucie city limits.

"We think that’s a pretty good investment. We recognize that the growth in our community is largely being driven by Port St. Lucie," said Tipton.

The county asked the city to hold off on the mobility fee until it could reassess its own impact fees. But after the city approved its new plan earlier this month, the county commission voted last week to sue.

Blackburn sees the mobility fees as a win-win for both the county and city as the city can easier make changes as needed, whether it’s an additional roadway lane, sidewalk, or bus turnout, to help improve the quality of life for its residents and manage the current growth.

The mobility fee takes effect October 5.