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Impact fees debated in Jefferson County

March 08, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Over strong objections by one member, the Jefferson County Commission Thursday night voted to negotiate a contract with a Bethesda, Md. firm to set up an impact fee system for the county.

Impact fees are charged to developers to help pay for expanded public services needed because of growth, such as new schools, expanded water and sewer service and other needs.

Commissioner James G. Knode told the commissioners he thinks it is wrong for the county to implement impact fees.

A state agency already exists to fund new school construction in the county, and with student populations shrinking in much of the state, funding new schools in growing counties should be that much easier, said Knode.

As far as sewer and water needs area concerned, expansions of those utilities can be funded through new hook-up fees, said Knode. Knode said there is already a proposal in the county for a special hook-up fee that would generate money for utility expansions.

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Speaking to the other commissioners about impact fees, Knode asked, "please, get the principles straight before you spend this money," said Knode.

Commissioners James K. Ruland, Jane Tabb and Al Hooper voted to proceed with the $60,000 contract with Tischler and Associates. Knode and Commissioner Dean Hockensmith voted against it.

The contract issues that have to be negotiated revolve around what type of impact fee system the commissioners want. They have to decide what they want the fees to pay for, such as schools, parks and utilities, and what the different rates will be, said Jefferson County Planning Director Paul Raco.

The Jefferson County Board of Education will be asked to give input on the process, said Raco. Some types of housing generate families with larger numbers of children, and perhaps fees might be higher for those types of housing, Raco said.

Talk of passing impact fees in the county has been under way for years, and it's a complicated process.

Counties must abide by a number of complex regulations, including developing a capital improvements plan, implementing building codes and other requirements.

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