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Impact fees put on hold

Decision aimed at stirring development

POSTED: May 27, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Developers have a year to begin new construction if they want to take advantage of the county’s new impact fee structure.

  

In an effort to stimulate the local economy, the Dawson County commission voted May 21 to suspend impact fees for one year.

  

Developers have a 12-month window to submit applications and begin construction. They then have another 12 months to finish their projects before the fees would kick in.

  

“This is a good day for builders and a good day for Dawson County,” said Rory Cunningham, president of the Dawson County Homebuilders Association.

  

The association lobbied for nearly two years to have the fees reduced. It recently presented the commission with a study from the state homebuilders association indicating the county’s fees were among the highest in north Georgia.

  

“I think we got a better outcome than what we ever could have expected,” Cunningham said. “We’re really pleased the commission stepped up and did the right thing to help everybody and help Dawson County.”   

  

Collected on new development, impact fees help offset the costs of infrastructure and other services, including fire stations, parks and libraries. The county has collected more than $1.5 million since the fees were enacted in 2006.

  

Prior to the vote, developers were paying between $2,051 and $3,086 in impact fees for a single-family home. Fees for commercial construction were based on square footage and location.

  

There was no opposition expressed at either of two public hearings on the matter.

  

At the same sessions, representatives from the housing, construction, retail and real estate industries praised the commission for considering the change, which they say will make the county competitive for new development.

  

Darren Hicks of the Georgia Homebuilders Association said May 21 that there were “not any silver bullets to heal our economic situation.”

  

But, he said, eliminating the impact fees “will help and try to get the economy stimulated in this area.”

  

Council for Quality Growth representative Janae Prince agreed.

  

“We would like to eliminate any barriers,” she said.

  

For Vic Lindley, who recently opened an events center in the 84 Lumber building, the decision couldn’t come at a better time. As a result of the commission’s decision, he said he can afford to double the facility’s size.

  

More than 3,100 people attended the center’s opening weekend last month, he said, spending their money in the county.

  

Darrell Chapman with Bull Realty said he had “legitimate offers,” representing more than $750,000 in projected tax revenue, now that the impact fees have been rolled back.

  

Mike Berg, commission chairman, said several restaurants — including Olive Garden, Krystal and the Varsity and at least two fuel companies — say they are “ready to come here once the impact fees are gone.”

  

Berg said the board’s aim is to spur new development in the county, notably the Sembler project at Ga. 400 and Dawson Forest Road. Plans call for 900,000 square feet of retail space, with at least four anchor stores. 

  

Jay Walker, chairman of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, said the organization was 100 percent behind doing away with impact fees for a year.

  

“That’s the stance of the chamber, to help small businesses this year,” he said. 

  

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

 

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