Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part story on a recent meeting of county commissioners and other local officials to discuss impact fees.
Local officials fear impact fees may further hurt local builders faced with a tough economy. But Bill Ross of Ross and Associates, says now is as good a time as any to put the fees into place.
Ross, who presented the Impact Fee Methodology Report to county commission and city council members on Oct. 28, said implementing the fees now will mean they're ready to go when the housing market rebounds.
He defined impact fees as a source of revenue for the county to be used as a means to offset the cost of specific projects in the categories of fire protection, emergency medical services, parks and recreation facilities and road improvements.
"The money generated by impact fees goes hand in hand with the need of specific projects, and the fees work best in combination with special local option sales tax funds. The two together provide a better benefit with the tax dollars," he said.
If impact fees were implemented, they would be attached to overall cost of single-family housing, apartments, general light and heavy industry buildings, general office buildings, banks, shopping centers and the like, according to Ross.
Because the county is split in half by Fort Stewart, Bryan County impact fees would be broken into two service areas, north and south, Ross said.
Samples provided by Ross show the maximum fees for the north end of the county as $2,928.41 per single family dwelling, $1.46 per square foot of general light industrial buildings, $1.42 per square foot of each shopping center and $16.74 per square foot of each new fast food restaurant built.
"The maximum allowable fees amount in each service area is a policy decision and up to the board. In the current study, the amount of approximately $2,900 per dwelling unit in the north end and $3,900 in the south are high for the state, and I would suggest too much," he said.
Toby Roberts, 4th District county commissioner, agreed that the current listed maximums are too much.
"The amounts spoken of, $2,900 and $3,900 are high. If the fee were, say $100 or even $200, that may be feasible, but the amount as listed now is not going to work. People just can't afford that." Roberts said.
Ross said the fees do not have to be set at the maximum allowable, but can be a portion of it and are meant to help pay for certain projects, not completely fund them.