Originally created 11/11/05

Impact fees are being discussed



Ron Cross says he has heard the arguments against what are called impact fees, with some people saying they just might have an impact on development in Columbia County.

Then again, though, he says he has heard proponents, too.

"Both of those arguments are there, that if we have impact fees and Richmond County doesn't and the city of Grovetown or the city of Harlem don't, it might cause people to go to those areas rather than come to Columbia County,'' said Mr. Cross, the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners. "But they're still going to go where the people are, where the rooftops are.''

It's a fee some county commissioners say might be needed to help offset infrastructure costs that often arise from new developments.

As part of the consideration process, the county recently formed a committee to look at whether impact fees should be charged to developers.

It will report back to the commission with a recommendation by March 31.

"Really, all high-growth counties in Georgia either have impact fees or they are studying them, and we want to go ahead and look at that,'' Mr. Cross said.

Impact fees are charged to developers to offset problems arising from new growth. Mr. Cross said there are some restrictions on how the fees can be used, adding that they currently can't be allocated for schools and that the fee money must be used only in the direct impact area.

However, he said, such a fee could still greatly help Columbia County.

"It could be some assistance in regional retention ponds and the correction of some of our stormwater problems,'' he said.

Commissioner Steve Brown said he supports such a fee, especially in cases where a development is built in an area that will require new county services.

"I'm in favor of it because I think impact fees are justified,'' he said. "It's just trying to collect these fees from the people who cause the impact.''

Mr. Cross said that if an impact fee were to be pursued by the county, the cost to a developer could be in the range of $1,000 to $1,500 per house constructed. On the commercial side, he said, the fee could be based on square footage.

"The thing you've got to be careful of, some areas really get ridiculous in their commercial impact fees so that it might cost a Target or a Wal-Mart three quarters of a million dollars or a million dollars just to locate in the area. We don't want to be that ridiculous, because we're not at that point yet.''

Mr. Cross said that for the county to consider such a fee, state law requires it to set up a committee that has at least 40 percent of its members from the building or development industry.

He said the county will split its committee between builders and residents, with each of the county's five commissioners naming a builder and a resident.

As of Thursday, five members had been named and approved.

Reach Preston Sparks at 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

COMMITTEE


Members named so far to the Columbia County Impact Fee Committee: Oliver Owens, builder; Jean Gariewicz, resident; Jim Bartley, builder; Mark Ivey, builder; and S.G. Von Schweinitz, resident.



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