The Dawson County Board of Commissioners has scheduled two public hearings for August for citizens to weigh in on proposed impact fees before they are adopted.
Impact fees are collected on new developments and help offset the cost of capital improvements and services as the county develops, including parks and recreation, roads, libraries and public safety.
One document required for the collection of impact fees is called the Capital Improvements Element, which is adopted as a chapter of the county’s comprehensive plan.
According to Dawson County Planning Director Jason Streetman, the Capital Improvements Element, or CIE, is a “wishlist of projects and how the impact fees would be earmarked and utilized to pay for those capital improvements.”
“Since the county is looking to restart and impact fee program, the county had to revise its Capital Improvement Element,” Streetman said.
To do that the county hired Bill Ross of Ross & Associates in June 2017 to update the county’s impact fee ordinance and schedule as well as the CIE.
The board enacted impact fees in 2006 and voted in May 2009 to suspend the fees so that developers who were deterred by the high cost would build in the county. Since then, no impact fees have been collected.
The cost to the county for the update is around $50,000. Of the amount of impact fees collected by the county, $1,651,000 between 2006 and 2009, some was set aside to cover the cost of Ross’ work.
Ross researched the projected growth of the county (50,000 county residents by 2040, compared to 24,000 currently) and how much new demand the growth will place on services. The cost of capital projects that county staff have determined necessary to fit that demand is used to create the impact fee schedule.
“The impact fee ultimately charged will represent a shifting of the burden to fund these capital projects from the tax base as a whole to the new growth and development actually demanding the services being added through these projects,” Ross’ impact fee methodology report reads. “The goal is the essence and basis of impact fees: everyone pays their fair share of the capital improvements needed to serve them on an equal basis.”
Under the proposed impact fee schedule, the maximum fee for a new single family home in 2018 would be $3,372.16; the maximum fee for a new general use office building would be $1.39 per square foot; and the maximum fee for a new shopping center would be $1.64 per square foot.
According to the methodology report, impact fees are limited to capital items having a life expectancy of at least 10 years, such as land, buildings and other facilities and major rolling stock, such as fire trucks.
Impact fees cannot be used for maintenance, supplies, personnel salaries, or other operational costs, or for short term capital items such as computers, furniture or automobiles, the report states.
Projects that the fees will be used to fund include seven new fire stations, a new branch library, an additional 200 acres of park space and improvements to heavily-trafficked county roads including Lumpkin Campground Road.
The board voted back in March to send the completed Capital Improvements Element, containing a summary of potential maximum impact fees, to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for approval.
The CIE has come back to the county with a blessing from the department of community affairs, and the board voted July 19 to approve the updated version.
The board will hold hearings at 6 p.m. Aug. 2 and Aug. 16 for citizens to weigh in on the proposed fees. The board could vote Aug. 16 to decide to start collecting fees again and set a date for collection to begin.
Separately, Streetman said the comprehensive plan should be completed soon.
The comprehensive plan is used by elected officials as a guideline for future growth and development, including capital projects allocations and the future land use map.
The comprehensive plan must be updated every five years and is a requirement to maintain Certified Local Government Status in Georgia, which makes the county eligible for state grants and programs. The county is in the process of finalizing the update with the aid of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, or GMRC.