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Jax Daily Record Friday, Oct. 15, 202101:39 PM EST

JEA delays water fee increases for builders to April

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Utility executives say developers will have until Feb. 1 to apply for ongoing projects to be grandfathered at existing prices. 
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

After pushback from area builders, JEA officials say they will delay implementing a 149% increase on the utility’s one-time water and sewer plant capacity fees for new development until April and give ongoing projects time to lock in current prices.

Executives for the city’s electric and water utility told board members Oct. 15 that builders in JEA’s service area will have until April 1 to prepay plant capacity fees at the current price with a nonrefundable deposit. 

Documentation is due sooner to lock in the lower fee.

JEA Director of Financial Planning and Analysis Juli Crawford said a commercial or multifamily project will be grandfathered into the existing rate if the developer shows an approved building permit and site plan by Feb. 1.

Builders applying for new connections before April 1 will have 90 days to prepare sites for service. 

A fee implementation timeline in the board Finance and Audit Committee packet says the decision is “essentially allowing nine months to pay the lower fee.”

Committee Chair Marty Lanahan said JEA officials “did what we said we were going to do” at the Sept. 20 rate hearing where the fee increases were approved.

“It appears that we’ve listened and we’ve given the folks that spoke the solutions they were looking for,” Lanahan said.

“I think we’ve done more than what we talked about,” said board  Chair John Baker.

The full board voted 6-0 in September to increase JEA’s standard capacity and meter fees paid by developers and builders from $3,649 to $9,098 by April 2023.

The latest decision delays the fee phase-ins by six months. They were scheduled to start Oct. 1.

JEA executives said the fee increases are needed to pay for an estimated $327 million in projects in JEA’s five-year capital improvement plan related to water and sewer capacity growth.

The water plant capacity fees would increase from $339.50 for a standard ¾-inch residential water line to $936 by April 2023, according to JEA August board materials and presentations by Crawford.

The board action also bumps JEA’s one-time sewer capacity fee 301% from $1,274 to $5,114 and the irrigation fee 210% from $339.50 to $1,053 by April 2023. 

The meter fee would rise 48% from $202.33 to $300.

The Northeast Florida Builders Association and First Coast Apartment Association lobbied JEA for a prepay option and a longer grandfathered period.

The latest plan has three fee increases on new plant connections on April 1 and Oct. 1, 2022, and April 1, 2023.

Crawford and JEA executives estimate the delay will have a $6 million impact on the utility.

NEFBA leaders sent the request letter to the board Aug. 20. They worried it would impact housing affordability. 

Developers like Matthew Marshall, RISE vice president of development, also wrote JEA officials.

He said projects with secured financing like RISE’s Race Track Road and Florida 9B project would see a $233,837 cost increase with the new fees.

Crawford and JEA CEO Jay Stowe told the Finance and Audit Committee the policy will be handled by the administration and does not require further board action. 

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