A few months have passed since the county's impact fee study committee met, deep-sixed the idea of Columbia County impact fees, and went back to building more houses than Starbucks has coffee shops.
State law, which is unfriendly to impact fees, requires counties considering them to set up a committee to study the idea. The state also dictates that the committee be dominated by members of the construction or real estate industry.
Anyone then surprised that Columbia County's committee didn't recommend the fees just doesn't know the law. They should find small progress, however, in the fact that the committee was created at all: Ron Cross, despite frequently being described incorrectly as a "retired developer" (he was a commercial builder, as different from a developer as Jiffy-Lube is from Ford Motor Company) is the first county chairman to actually get the committee established and their study completed.
Even so, the state impact fee's complicated nature doomed it here, as did some difficulties of implementing a fee in Columbia County where developers already pay many of the infrastructure costs that an impact fee would cover.
The one bright spot in the committee's discussion, however, was their agreement that the legislature should allow counties to charge an impact fee for school construction.
An editorial this past week in the Atlanta paper also called for the fee's expansion to cover schools, which feel the greatest effect from development.
So, can we expect the members of Columbia County's impact fee study committee to put their mouths where their, um, mouths are? Can we expect them to urge the county's elected state officials to get the law changed?
The likely election of Casey Cagle as lieutenant governor would help. Cagle, as a Republican state senator, has said he favors allowing impact fees for school construction. If he'd get out front on the issue, surely our local legislative delegation would be willing to help push that wagon.
The Atlanta paper's recent analysis of school impact fees should help. One of the things it pointed out is that Cherokee County, which has had enormous success with impact fees, could benefit greatly from school fees that would help it to house some of the 15,000 new students expected in the next 10 years.
By the way: The anti-impact fee crowd repeatedly claims that growth pays for itself. The Atlanta paper makes note of a study from Georgia State University, which shows that county by county analysis in Georgia proves otherwise.
So, with evidence showing that growth doesn't pay for itself, especially in its impact on schools; and with Columbia County's own study recommending school impact fees; and, with the likely election of a pro-school-impact-fee lieutenant governor, and the assured re-election of all members of the Columbia County legislative delegation (they're all unopposed): Can there be any excuse for a school impact fee bill not to at least get proposed and debated next year?
All of the candidates for the locally opposed races are invited to appear at the forum at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center.
Sponsored by the Government Affairs Committee of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, the forum will be moderated by School Board (and committee) member Mike Sleeper.
I'll be one of the panelists, along with Augusta Chronicle editorial page editor (and Columbia County resident) Mike Ryan, and a local high school student.
Several people have sent questions they want asked at the forum. Keep sending them, and I'll be happy to consider asking them.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.