The Buzz

By Hannah Wallace February 28, 2006

Leading Question As impact fees, those one-time taxes on new homes, double and triple around the state-at press time, Charlotte County was proposing to increase its fees 251 percent from $2,642 to $9,263-builders are girding up for a fight in the legislature (see story on page in this issue). Many builders say they're already paying their fair share and support legislation sponsored by Republican state Sen. Mike Bennett, a developer who wants to make impact fees clearer and more consistent throughout the state and to require local governments to account for how they spend every bit of the money.

Who really pays impact fees?

But who's really paying impact fees? We asked a few experts, and the answers show why impact fees will be so hotly debated this legislative session.

"Homeowners pay for impact fees, not homebuilders," insists Florida economist Henry Fishkind of Fishkind & Associates. "It's like stores. They don't pay sales tax; they just collect it."

Manatee County developer Pat Neal points out that most new residents do not buy new homes-87 percent of all home sales here are resale-so it's not fair to say that new residents pay for growth through impact fees. In truth, he says, landowners end up paying for impact fees. "I'm just a middleman," he says. He points to research by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, which concluded that landowners pay the real cost. "Land will be worth more in a county that has no impact fees than in a county that does," says Neal. "You can prove this relationship by observing the value of land sold in the city of Sarasota versus Sarasota County, and in the city of Bradenton versus Manatee County. Builders and developers readily pay more for land in these [incorporated] jurisdictions because of the lower impact fees."

Sen. Bennett concedes that builders are not paying for the impact fees themselves. (Like Fishkind, he says the buyers are.) So why are homebuilders frustrated? Because impact fees make it impossible to build affordable housing, he says. "Osceola raised its school impact fee to $13,000. Manatee County said there's going to be a 30 percent increase next month. In Orange County, Calif., impact fees are $110,000 when you buy a house. How can you have affordable housing for police officers and school teachers? They shouldn't increase fees without going to the voters."

Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton, who is on the legislature's impact fee task force, says eliminating impact fees will not create affordable housing. "Impact fees have no influence over a price of a home," he insists. "Do you think homebuilders will lower their price by $5,500 if the $5,500 fee goes away?"

According to Thaxton, taxpayers end up paying for more than their fair share of growth because impact fees aren't nearly high enough. Sarasota County uses ad valorem taxes, gas taxes and telecommunications taxes to help pay for capital improvements, and those are taxes that all residents pay.

We asked Bennett if he'd lower his home prices by $5,500 if Sarasota County's impact fees were eliminated. "I don't want to stop or cap impact fees, but we should have a fair adjustment," he replied. Was that a yes or a no? -Susan Burns


Manatee County

$10,196 to $13,169 (depending on number of bedrooms)

Collier County

$7,706 to $11,022 (depending on square footage)

Lee County


Sarasota County


Charlotte County

$2,642 (proposed: $9,263)

Pinellas County


Hillsborough County

$1,051 to $3,080 (depending on number of bedrooms)

(Numbers do not include utility connection fees. Sources: Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas and Hillsborough county governments.)

BUZZ WORDS The build up of information or traffic that slows down a software application's ability to perform. Source:


EARLY BIRDING: A marketing strategy that creates enough buzz to convince consumers to pre-purchase a new product, not to get a discount, but to be among the first to own it. Source:

MBA: To a small part of the workforce, it's a coveted business degree. To the folks who work for bosses with MBAs, it more often stands for Mediocre But Arrogant. Source:

SALMON DAY: The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end. Source:


John Murse learns the rug business from the ground up.


John Murse is owner of Rugs As Art in Sarasota, which was a finalist in 2005 for National Rug Retailer of the Year. The store is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

"I'm in this business completely by accident. I graduated from college with an engineering degree, but I was also a musician all my life, and rather than using my degree, I ended up traveling all over the country as a side musician with different country music groups.

"After three years I wanted to go back to school and further my degree, but I missed the winter term, so I got a job playing in a nightclub in Pennsylvania called The Country Place. One night I was talking to the owner, and I went ahead and bought it. I was 23. I did that for three years; then I had enough, so I decided to go back to continue my engineering degree. Lo and behold I missed the term.

"I had to have a job, so I applied as a stock guy in a carpet store. They didn't want a 26-year-old stock guy, but the manager said, 'I do need salespeople.' I thought, 'No way, I'm not a salesperson,' but I said I'd try it two or three months-then I was going back to college. He asked me why I was going back to school; how much does an engineer make? I blurted out, '$25,000.' He said, 'I'll pay you $500 a week for a year, and if you don't like it, you can go back to school.'

"I did stay one year, then I became store manager, then buyer, then a manager of multiple stores. Then after eight years I became a corporate partner. We had 22 stores, and my job, of all things, was to import the Oriental area rugs for all the stores. That's how I learned the business. I got my Ph.D. in retailing with these guys."-Ilene Denton


Katie Moulton says the best way to book travel may still be the old-fashioned way-by phone.

Ditch the Mouse

If you've planned a vacation lately, chances are you've journeyed online to, or Although Internet travel services have captured a huge share of the market, they've posed problems for hotels. Katherine Klauber Moulton, president and general manager of The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort and president of the Florida Lodging Association, says hotels are fighting back. Picking up the phone will still get the best value for your travel dollar. "Get someone on the phone who lives it, breathes it, eats it," she says. "They can tell you if the fitness room is a treadmill in a closet or a gym with a fitness instructor. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you will get the better value."

How did the online travel agencies get such a lion's share of the market? After 9/11, hotels were left with many rooms they couldn't sell. Web sites became important to individual hotels as a method to sell and receive greater exposure. Their advertising budget is incredible: Expedia alone has $600 million budgeted for advertising.

Why is that a challenge for hotels? Online services charge large commissions. For an average hotel, Expedia charges more than 30 percent commission on every room sold. The revenue loss to hotels sent shockwaves through the industry. Since then, many hotel chains and larger independents have been able to negotiate those fees. But to compensate, the online companies charge individuals an additional $5, $10 or 5 percent. So the consumer is paying.

How is the hotel industry responding? Hotels are working hard to get out of this mess. A year ago, more than 40 percent of consumers believed that buying travel products online was better value. That has dipped 20 percent. We've become more Web savvy. Fifty to 60 percent of every individual planning travel visits the Internet for ideas. They typically end up jumping on to Expedia, Travelocity or because those sites pay the most to have the highest visibility. We're banding together and forcing the big travel sites to negotiate. I listen to hoteliers even today who don't have a Web site yet. They don't yet believe in the power of the Internet. Even small properties with 20 or 30 rooms need a Web presence. They have to be able to be found by a traveler.

How can travelers get the best deal? Call the property directly. Not only are we going to match the Expedia price, we'll do one better. If Expedia sells a room for $100, the hotel makes $70. If we charge $90, you are saving $10 and we're making $20 more than we would have with Expedia. Not only do we match rates or offer better rates, we guarantee better property locations. We also offer incentives to book directly with us on the next visit.

What are some other resources for today's traveler? I still believe in the value of a travel agent. If you have been working with one for a number of years who knows your preferences, has time to investigate a trip, you need to consider them a valuable partner. Let them do the work. The person who is working at Expedia is just collecting data from the Internet. The person at Expedia has never been to my property. A travel agent can really define a property and is still the best way to go.-Anu Varma



"Good Morning, Greater Sarasota!" networking breakfast, 7:30 a.m. at The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, 2635 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Free for Greater Sarasota Chamber members, $5 for non-members. Call 955-2508 ext. 231 or RSVP online at


Greater Sarasota Chamber Power Networking Lunch 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Chamber Boardroom, 1945 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. $12. RSVP online at

"How to Provide Exceptional Customer Service" lecture by Horst Schulze, founder of "The Ritz-Carlton Concept" and CEO of West Paces Hotel Group; part of the Linda Novey-White Memorial Lecture Series by USF. 4 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive. Free; reservations required. Call 359-4602. See for more.


Chamber University Business Development Workshop 9 a.m. at the Greater Sarasota Chamber, 1945 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Call 955-2508 ext. 231 for details.


Greater Sarasota Chamber Business Connections 5 to 7 p.m. at Encore Motorcars of Sarasota, 6000 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $5 for members, $15 for non-members. Call 955-2508 ext. 231.

MARCH 15 7:30 to 9 a.m. at a location TBA. Check or call 488-2236 for details. Wake Up Venice!

Chamber University Business Development Workshop 9 a.m. at the Greater Sarasota Chamber, 1945 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Call 955-2508 ext. 231 for details.

MARCH 21 the Central West Coast Chapter presents Rick Oppenheim on "Why Enter (and How to Win) Image Awards." 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Marina Jack, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota. Call 953-FPRA or visit

Florida Public Relations Association Professional Development Luncheon

Greater Sarasota Chamber New Member Briefing 4 to 5 p.m. at the Chamber Boardroom, 1945 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Call 556-4034.

MARCH 23 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Venice Herald-Tribune, 300 Tamiami Trail S., Venice. $4 for members, $8 for non-members. Call 488-2236.

Venice Chamber Business After Five

MARCH 27 noon to 1 p.m. at a location TBA. $10. Check or call 488-2236 for details.

Venice Chamber Network Lunch



Construction permits in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Number of single-family home permits approved in 2005

Unincorporated Sarasota County: 2,165

Value: $470.84 million

Unincorporated Manatee County: 4,228

Value: $945.13 million

Number of commercial permits approved in 2005

Unincorporated Sarasota County: 139

Value: $98.25 million

Incorporated Manatee County: 282

Value: $83.22 million

Largest single-family homes permitted in 2005

In Sarasota County: 9,962 square feet at 5309 Hidden Harbor Road

In Manatee County: 16,157 square feet by John Cannon Homes at 19208 Ganton Ave., in The Concession's Phase II.

Total residential permits approved in city of Sarasota

October 2003 to September 2004: 125

October 2004 to September 2005: 142

Total residential permits approved in city of Bradenton

2004: 188

2005: 198

Total residential permits approved in Venice

2005: 1,975

2004: 2,250

Total residential permits approved in North Port

October 2004 to September 2005: 2,815

October 2003 to September 2004: 4,100

SOURCES: Sarasota County Government Building Department, Manatee County Government Building Department, City of Sarasota Building Department, City of Venice Building and Code Enforcement Department, city of North Port. Compiled by Hannah Wallace.

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