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Fees may have less of impact

Board revisits rate structure

POSTED: April 15, 2009 4:00 a.m.

In the face of slowing growth, officials continue to study Dawson County’s impact fee structure and ways to trim the capital improvements it funds.

  

The fees, collected on new development, help offset the costs of infrastructure and other services, including fire stations, parks and libraries.

  

The county commission has several options, among them leaving the fees unchanged, lowering or temporarily eliminating them, or directing staff to prepare a new capital improvement element.

  

Commissioners are expected to revisit the matter during Thursday’s regular meeting, set for 6 p.m. at city hall.

  

Since the fees were enacted in July 2006, the county has collected more than $1.5 million.

  

Impact fees on business are calculated by square footage and location.The fee for a single-family home runs between $2,051 and $3,086.

  

That’s too steep for some local and state building associations, which maintain the county has some of the highest fees in the state.

  

In fact, representatives from several industries told the commission in February that the fees have kept them from locating in the county.

  

James Throckmorton, an associate real estate representative from Chattanooga, Tenn., said the Krystal Corp. faces a fee of $35 per square foot, $21 higher than originally proposed.

  

The impact fee, coupled with the tap fee for Etowah Water and Sewer Authority, would cost the company 25 percent of the site development and construction cost.

  

“If it stays at $35 per square foot, it’ll kill the deal,” he told the board during a special called meeting in February.

  

The county chose to revisit the impact fee structure last year as residential building began to slow.

  

Emergency Services Director Billy Thurmond last week cut more than $3.4 million from the department’s list of impact fee-funded projects.

  

Projects cut from the fee structure include a fire-training tower, several vehicles and two fire stations.

  

The majority of impact fees are directed to road improvements, with more than 55 projects in the original report.

  

County officials have since eliminated more than $28 million from estimated road improvement costs.

  

Local economists predict the downturn will continue until the residential housing market improves. 

  

Deron Hicks, lead council for the Homebuilders Association of Georgia, encouraged the board in February to readdress the fees, saying home builders lost $10.7 billion in income between 2006 and 2008, as a result of the economic downturn.

  

It’s unlikely the fees will go away, but they could change.

  

“As a policy, you can change your impact fee at any time,” said Bill Ross, who worked with the county on the current fee structure.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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