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Builders, county meet in court
Full day of hearings ends with date set to meet again
Homebuilders hearing.jpg
Atlantic Judicial Circuit Senior Judge Robert Russell, behind bench, listens to arguments from attorneys Frank Jenkins and Bill Glass on Friday, May 10, at a courtroom in the Bryan County Courthouse in Pembroke. Jenkins is among the attorneys representing Bryan County, Glass is among the attorneys representing the Home Builders Association of Greater Savannah. (Jeff Whitten)

UPDATE: A moratorium on development  in Bryan County?

During one point in Friday's daylong hearing on Bryan County's interim development ordinance and its impact fee, attorney Aaron Kappler argued that the Home Builders Association of Greater Savannah's  lawsuit, if successful, could lead to a temporary end to all development.

The Home Builders, represented by attorneys Bill  Glass and Keri Martin, are asking Atlantic Judicial Circuit Senior Judge Robert Russell to decide whether the interim development ordinance and development impact fee ordinances are unconstitutional for a number of reasons. 

One section in particular applies to residential developers, and has imposed various design standards that builders say will add thousands to the cost of homes and price moderate income buyers out of the market.

But Kappler said that should the courts rule in favor of builders and invalidate that section, known as section 11, it will invalidate the entire ordinance, which Bryan County Commissioners passed in October 2018, and would leave the county with no ordinance to follow.

That, Kappler said, would be the same as "issuing a judicial moratorium on development in Bryan County."

"There's a saying, be careful what you ask for," he said. 

Jeff  Whitten

 A lawsuit against Bryan County by the Home Builders Association of Greater Savannah got its first full day in court Friday in Pembroke.

The merits of vinyl siding were  given a lot of attention.

So were the adverse economic impact home builders say they and their customers will suffer if Bryan County’s interim development and impact fee ordinances stand. 

Both measures could add anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 to the cost of a home in South Bryan, a handful of developers and experts testified Friday during the hearing.

 That would push moderate income buyers such as the military, firefighters and nurses out of the South Bryan market, they testified. 

Also at issue is whether developers of residential property are being singled out by the impact fee, since they're the only group not allowed to apply for an exemption under the ordinance, home builders say. 

The county will present its case May 24. 

A more complete story will follow in Thursday's Bryan County News. 

For now,  few notes: 

The hearing, before Atlantic Judicial Circuit Judge Robert Russell in the Honorable Judge John R. Harvey Courtroom, began shortly after 9 a.m. 

 Apart from an hour lunch break and an occasional stop for a breather and negotiations to "streamline the process," as Home Builders attorney Bill Glass said, it went on until after 6 p.m. and included testimony ranging from an official with the Vinyl Siding Institute and a forensic engineer to a noted noted regional economist, to builders and the association's director, Patty Reitkovich. 

As for the effort to "streamline the process," developers apparently offered to pay the approximately $3,000 per home impact fee which went into effect April 1 if the county would agree to either hold the money aside until the case is settled or agree to pay it back if the county's ordinances are thrown out. 

Attorneys for the county, Frank Jenkins, Aaron Kappler and Patrick O'Brien, met with county officials, then turned the offer down. More than once.

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