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Impact fee committee still at work
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Bryan County’s Impact Fee Committee recently met for the second time to continue considering new development impact fees for the county, including the possibility of instituting impact fees for fire, EMS and parks and recreation.

The committee, made up of local residents appointed by the county commission, is helping Bill Ross, a planner for the planning firm Ross+associates, conduct a study to see how different one-time fees charged to developers may help offset future development costs.

The hope is that the county will be able to look at its future plans and figure out how much of it can be paid for with impact fees.

"The committee’s role is to review the work we, the consultants, are doing for the county. They will provide the recommendation to the commissioners, of what those fees might be and what kind of charge they want to put on those fees," Ross said. "We looked at the maximum charges so they know the ceiling. We’ve done the majority of impact fees around the state and about half adopt the max and half don’t. It’s a local policy choice for how much you want to charge. North and south are also so geographically separated, you could almost look at them as separate entities that each have different fees."

The committee first met this past fall. In addition to the methodology study for possible impact fees associated with fire, EMS and parks and recreation, County Administrator Phil Jones also asked Ross to add roads to the study.

Ross said one requirement for all impact fees is that they be capital improvements with a life of at least ten years. The fees can only be used for seven types of public facilities/services: libraries, recreation, water supply, roads and bridges, public safety (police, jails, fire and EMS), wastewater treatment and stormwater management.

about what the county needs to add in the future. They need to consider, ‘Of what we need to build, what can shift directly onto new growth?’" Ross explained. "Not all of it can ever be shifted, but we can free up some general money with impact fees. It’s a funding issue."

Ross said the idea of the fees is to utilize them as a growth management tool – not a deterrent for development. He said the group is roughly a third of the way through the process and at least three months away from any adoption of any potential fees.

While all the meetings are open to the public, Ross said the county will hold three publicized public hearings for the community.

"None of these have been scheduled yet, but it’s important the public has the opportunity to provide input – especially the development community," Ross said. "The hearings will discuss ordinances and, for a builder who would pay the fee, that’s when it becomes real. Those people need to be informed."

At the first meeting, Jones explained the fees offer local government an additional source of money for specific projects, instead of it all falling on the taxpayers – meaning taxes don’t go up as fast or as often.

Additionally, the fees create a financial incentive to discourage inefficient land development, by promoting infill development and discouraging scattered development.

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