Downtown expansion fee holds water

Residents of South Tampa can breathe a bit easier when they look at their water bills thanks to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and other city officials. Local developers who intend to begin new construction of commercial or residential properties south of Interstate 275 will be forced to pay an extra $1,500 per unit to pay for a 10-mile pipeline extending the water supply from downtown to the South Tampa region.

The areas affected by the new fee are south of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, east of Dale Mabry Highway and west of 15th Street. The region is strapped for water distribution due to the immense growth of the South Tampa region.

Rather than have the existing residents of the area pay extra in their water bills, the developers will foot the bill for the pipe, which is estimated to cost approximately $45 billion to $48 billion. And rightfully so, as residents of the area should not be forced to pay extra for the overwhelming growth in the Tampa Bay area.

Supply is not the issue, merely distribution. Iorio made the right decision by creating the fee in a timely manner, because it did not give time to lobbyists for city developers to manipulate or even prevent the fee from happening altogether.

According to an article in the Tampa Tribune, city officials “cited a city code that allows the water department director to determine the cost to developers without city council approval.”

After development of the pipeline is finished, the fee is supposed to expire, but city administrators may seek for that rule to be changed. If that happens, developers will continue to pay the fee even after the pipeline is finished. While developers might claim this is unfair treatment, it’s not fitting for the existing residents to foot the bill.

The fee likely would have been struck down if put up to a vote. The fact that the city officials are looking out for the future of the city’s residents proves they have their constituents in mind.

While city officials do not have the exact price of the pipeline pinpointed, creating the fee now will surely cover the costs and save the residents of the Bay area some money.