The July 19 issue of The News-Times contained a letter from a group of five builders and three at-large members of the Impact Fee Study Committee, explaining their opposition to impact fees. I was the only member out of 10 appointed by the commissioners who was in favor of impact fees in order to alleviate financial pressures on the county to provide additional infrastructure into new developments.
The fees would be added to the price of new homes and business developments, requiring capital improvements for transportation, stormwater and other applicable costs.
While the builders' letter points out what impact fees cannot be used for - in older developments and as catch-up funds for various infrastructure shortcomings - it is only logical that impact fees on new developments would free up other county funds to do the catch-up work.
Some of the costs of new development infrastructure should be shared by the new owners. Just selling bonds and raising taxes is not a fair way to burden all present homeowners.
Their claim that growth pays for growth is a fantasy. Just look at our county's biggest budget item: education, at $150 million. The cost of education per year, per child is approximately $3,000, and a new home owner might pay $2,000 to $2,500 per year in property tax. Additional sales taxes from new commercial enterprises is not closing the gap, either.
If we add nearly 5,000 new dwellings and commercial buildings during the next three years (at the present rate) in Columbia County, we would be paving over another 29 million square feet of land. Can you imagine the stormwater and traffic problems? Impact fees on new developments must reduce tax increases and debt issues, and free up county funds for correcting past shortcomings.
S.G. von Schweinitz
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