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County Council: Industry group asks for delay in fees

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Impact fees on new development will go into effect Monday as scheduled, despite continued pleas from some Georgetown County residents for a delay.

County Council agreed to implement impact fees more than three months ago as part of the county’s capital improvement plan. When the ordinance was up for a vote earlier this year, opponents, mostly real estate agents and developers, lined up to ask council not to implement the fees during a recession.

They’ve returned in small numbers over the ensuing months to request a delay in implementation, and did so again this week.

A new voice in the collective cry to halt impact fees was Dan Stacy, representing the Alliance for Economic Development for Georgetown County, a private group that helps the county’s economic development staff recruit new industry.

The alliance wants impact fees delayed for 18 months, Stacy told council.

Given current economic conditions, “it doesn’t seem appropriate to create an additional impediment to doing business,” he told council. The alliance’s position is that the fees “will materially and negatively impact” the county’s recruitment efforts for manufacturing and capital investment.

Stacy requested that council have another workshop on impact fees during the requested delay period to allow those who will be affected by the fees an additional chance for input.

Impact fees weren’t on the agenda, so council didn’t take any action and normally council members don’t address public comments in meetings, but Council Member Glen O’Connell made an exception.

“Another workshop at this time would not be appropriate, as we have no new information to consider,” he said.

Council is scheduled to review impact fees one year after implementation and, at that time, will have proof of the effects of the fees on economic development that can be reviewed and analyzed, he added.

“I strongly disagree with those who argue that impact fees will damage our future,” O’Connell said. As a coastal county with “an attractive quality of life and modest property costs and taxes, compared to other areas along the eastern seaboard,” he said he believes significant growth in Georgetown County is inevitable.

In addition, O’Connell said impact fees are critical to the capital plan, which he called “the most significant action that County Council has taken for the benefit of the citizens of this county in some time.”

“This fact is significant in the discussion of impact fees because the successful implementation of the entire CIP is dependent in many ways on the use of impact fees,” he said. “Absent impact fees, the entire CIP may be in jeopardy.”

Paul Yarborough, a builder, and Eileen Johnson, a Georgetown resident, also asked for a delay.

Those in support of impact fees have been largely silent on the issue, but five turned out to encourage council to continue with the June 1 implementation.

“In spite of the flack you’ve been catching from special interest groups,” Leon Rice of Murrells Inlet said, “there is a group of us that think you have foresight and should be commended on what you’re doing.”

Dwight Fee of Murrells Inlet said he did a lot of research about impact fees when the issue came up in the county and, according to his findings, taxes and fees are not among the top influencing factors for businesses and industries looking for a new location.

“Quality of life is much higher on the list,” he said. “And I imagine it’s much the same for homeowners.”

Bill Chandler of Murrells Inlet said he favors impact fees because he believes those who stand to benefit from a new development should share the burden of the cost, rather than passing it down to the existing tax base.

Nancy Cave of the Coastal Conservation League agreed, complimenting council on its work on the capital plan and urging them to “finish it and put the fees in place.”

Once in effect, impact fees will add about $6,000 to the cost of building a new home on Waccamaw Neck.

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