People move to Columbia County for better quality of life and a much better school system not available in neighboring counties.
Impact fees are passed forward from developer to home buyer one time. While the developer-builder may not favor this proposal, they do have a sense of fairness.
With Columbia County's population already at 106,000 and 1,300 new homes being built yearly, the infrastructure to accommodate this growth puts a severe pressure on financial resources. As more land is being paved over, storm water has become a pressing issue and requires more preventative construction work each year.
Many of our county roads and bridges have become inadequate to handle increasing traffic. There are nearly 30 needed road projects on the list under county obligation for $80 million, not to mention state and federal projects, which are stretching far into the future.
An impact fee on new homes and businesses might add $3,500 to the price of a new home to help pay for the new growth infrastructure. SPLOST and borrowing bonds are not adequate and increased sales tax is not legal, so draw your own conclusion.
Here is the question raised by the builders who want to avoid impact fees: The new development residents would do much of their shopping in our county's commercial establishments and pay a sales tax, 3 percent of which would go into Columbia County coffers. Would this tax pay for the additional infrastructure required to serve their new development including storm water and roads? Their sales tax receipts should support the county's general operation - not pay for their additional infrastructure. Also, would their property tax, two-thirds of which goes to the school system, pay for all the services expected from the county? All the while, present taxpayers have been paying for all existing county's infrastructure, not to mention the fact that we have been getting behind with storm water problems and road improvements because of the rapid growth. How can growth pay for growth when you first have to invest millions into additional infrastructure?
The impact fee is collected only the first year at the property's closing, included in the price of the home and commercial building. If we add 5,000 dwellings over the next three years plus commercial establishments, we would be paving over another 29 million square feet of land - exploding storm water and traffic problems.
Put the question to Columbia County voters!
S.G. von Schweinitz
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.