Exposing Oxymorons: Summit East Development

Just north of I-10 at the Mahan Drive interchange sits Summit East Technology Park.

It’s the kind of office park that is easy on the eyes and has become a part of the landscape for those commuting in from the direction of Monticello.

It has office space. A hotel. A restaurant.

But mostly, space for lease with a lean toward technology. You may not remember, but in 1999, this was undeveloped farmland. You may also not remember that the project was not without opposition:

To be fair, however, pushback on the project was modest at best. And now, hardly a disparaging word is spoken about the project, which appears to be presciently located at an interchange about to boom with the addition of Amazon and the Welaunee “heel” project.

Back to 1999. Three parcels of land made up what is currently the Summit East property. The total value of that land was roughly $1.5 million.

Here is what we want to share. In 1999, the local government received a grand total of $34,000 in local tax revenue from the land, according to the Leon County Tax Office.

Today? Guess. Seriously, go ahead and guess. Since 1999, prices have gone up about 70 percent. That would mean the tax revenue is a little under $70,000. Does that sound right?

Higher? A tenfold increase would be $340,000.

OK, we will put you out of your misery. Here is a list of taxes paid on this property:

Yes. that’s more than $1.2 million in local tax revenues, as confirmed by the Leon County Property Appraiser’s office.

Let’s put that in perspective.

Using an average salary of $43,000 and 30 percent more for benefits, that’s about $56,000 per teacher, which means this development is funding the equivalent of 23 teachers.

Looking at law enforcement, even factoring in outfitting a Leon County sheriff’s deputy with a vehicle, a gun, etc. the cost is $156,000 per deputy which means about 8 could be funded with this tax revenue.

Summit East’s taxes equal almost double the City of Tallahassee’s urban forestry budget of $781,458. The development’s taxes cover the entire Cascades Park annual maintenance and upkeep.

Now, to the point: When well-meaning folks in this town oppose economic growth, they are, by definition, opposing increased funding for local government.

Being an “anti-growth progressive” is oxymoronic. Because if you are opposing growth, you are shutting off the spigot that provides funding for teachers, deputies, parks and recreation upkeep and more.

The great irony of opposing development to protect the environment is that swelling local government coffers better enable it to address the environment through urban forestry upkeep and the like.

By the way, a terrible way to measure growth is by what you see. A better way is to look at population growth – and for Leon County, that’s a sobering picture.

Leon County’s population grew an anemic 9 percent from 2010-2020. That ranked the county next to last in population growth of the 32 most populous counties in the state.

The previous decade saw 14-percent population growth. The decade before that – 1990-2000 – that number was 24 percent.

Here’s another way to look at it – Leon County had 1.5 percent of Florida’s population in 1990, which ranked it 18th in the state.

In 2020, that percentage fell to 1.39 percent – 22nd. All this costs local government money – in per-pupil funding, state and federal funding and more.

Suppressing economic growth is a great way to deny the local government the funding it needs to make our community great.

Oh, and by the way, the total number of people employed by businesses at Summit East?

More than one thousand.

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