They aren’t a line item yet, but development impact fees could be on the way in York County.
York County Council voted unanimously Monday night to start negotiations with a firm that could bring back a plan for implementing them. The move came without discussion. County planners have had an impact fee study on their plates for a while, and Monday’s decision is the next and most official step to date.
Development impact fees are a charge on new construction. Existing buildings in the county wouldn’t be included.
In September, the county received two proposals for consulting services related to an impact fee feasibility study. One from a Maryland firm, the other coming from one in California. The county advertised the bid and notified 22 firms. The decision Monday allows for negotiations to begin with Bethesda, Md.-based TischlerBise.
According to the company’s website, TischlerBise has prepared more than 900 impact fees across the United States and Canada. Those include Anderson, Georgetown, Horry and Richland counties in South Carolina, along with Aiken and Summerville.
The company calculated impact fees for more than a dozen uses, including roads, schools, police, fire, parks, municipal buildings and libraries.
York County set up the first local impact fee back in 1996, for the Fort Mill School District. The district has been charging $2,500 for each new residence built and occupied since. Now the district is asking the county to up that amount to $10,000 per residence. District leaders already met with the county finance and operations committee, and council scheduled a legal briefing on the issue in executive session Monday night.
Hiring a consulting firm doesn’t mean new impact fees will come quickly, if at all. It took 16 months from the time Fort Mill began discussions on impact fees to when the town passed them in 2015. The town set up fees based on anticipated impacts to its budgets for parks and recreation, fire protection and municipal services. The town also put a transportation fee on the books, but charges nothing for it at the moment.
The transportation fee was the most desired in Fort Mill, as leaders wanted dollars to pay for roads. But the impact on transportation largely comes from businesses and Fort Mill couldn’t get past protests from the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce and others wary of scaring away new commercial growth.
Of note, the York County bid solicitation stated the county is looking for a firm to provide “professional transportation planning services” related to impact fees.
Fort Mill isn’t the only public body looking to impact fees to help pay for growth costs.
Rock Hill voted last year to phase in increases for fees that city set up in 2003. At least one candidate for Tega Cay City Council advocated for new fees there. Lancaster County studied impact fees, but to date hasn’t set up any and continues with development agreements as a way to make developers pay for improvements needed with incoming growth.
Catawba Regional Council of Governments prepared a study last year specific to the fast-growing Indian Land and Van Wyck areas. It calculated possible fees for fire, emergency service, libraries and recreation.
Impact fees aren’t designed to entirely cover growth costs, but they can help. In the 12 months prior to the Fort Mill School District requesting its increase, the district collected $5.8 million in impact fees. More than half that amount came from unincorporated York County, with more than 40 percent coming from Fort Mill and the rest from Tega Cay.
Inside Fort Mill town limits, impact fee revenue is growing.
In the fiscal year ending in September, Fort Mill collected $1.74 million in impact fees. That figure is up more than 21 percent from the first year of fee collection.
“If you wanted to put that in terms of if you were going to raise taxes to generate $1.7 million,” town planning director Joe Cronin told Fort Mill Town Council last month, “you would have to raise taxes almost 25 mills.”
Meaning about a 30 percent tax rate increase in Fort Mill. The town generated about that same difference in its first year without raising the tax levy just by collecting impact fees.
If York County were to set up impact fees, and thefees included a charge on residential construction, homes in Fort Mill could have their third separate charge with the county, town and school district all collecting.