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Commissioners OK impact fees

November 07, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday night to implement impact fees, meaning developers soon will be charged thousands of dollars for each new home built.

Although the fees will not be as high as had been suggested, Lori Stilley, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, said implementing them is considered a victory.

"Thank God we got a start. It's not a bad start," she said after the meeting.

Impact fees, which are used to help improve infrastructure affected by growth, will allow for the construction of new schools and improvements to be made at the county's existing schools. Developers will start paying the fees Jan. 7.

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As approved, developers must pay $7,122 per single-family home or mobile home, $5,562 per townhouse or duplex and $4,040 per multi-family dwelling.

Those numbers represent 85 percent of the fees recommended by Tischler and Associates, a Bethesda, Md., firm that organized a study on impact fees for the county.

Tischler recommended that developers pay $8,378 per single-family home, $6,543 per townhouse or duplex and $4,753 per multi-family dwelling.

Commissioners Greg Corliss and Rusty Morgan recommended adopting those figures, but the idea was voted down 3-2.

Commission President Jane Tabb said she favored the lower rates.

"We all know that we have an affordable housing issue" that has neither quick nor easy answers, she said.

Countering her argument, Morgan said lowering the fees by $1,000 or so is not going to solve the affordable housing issue.

"Impact fees are for our children," he said.

Because the full amount recommended by Tischler was not approved, Stilley said all county residents will end up paying the difference through higher taxes.

In its study, Tischler calculated that each new single-family home built would add half a child to the school system. The cost to educate that child adds up to $8,300, Stilley said. With an impact fee of $7,122 approved, the difference will need to come from somewhere. Possible funding sources include bond calls, which call for higher taxes.

"We'll keep trying (to obtain higher fees)," Stilley said. The fees can be reviewed and changed annually.

Most agree that developers will pass the cost of impact fees on to home buyers, leading to higher price tags on new houses. Opponents of the fees have said that could cause homeowners to look elsewhere when buying a home.

Proponents have argued that the fees will help improve the school system, including the construction of a second county high school. Jefferson High School, which was designed to hold 1,200 students, currently serves around 1,600, school officials have said.

Expecting a large crowd, the commissioners moved their meeting to the library in Charles Town. About 50 people attended, although comments from the public were not permitted.

Citing a recent public hearing in which many people spoke of implementing the highest possible fees, Stilley said she was disappointed the commissioners adopted the lower figures.

"I wish they would have heard the people more," she said.




How they voted


The Jefferson County Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday night to implement impact fees.

For: Greg Corliss, Al Hooper, Rusty Morgan and Jane Tabb

Against: Jim Knode

Impact fees approved Thursday include:

  • $7,122 per single-family home or mobile home

  • $5,562 per townhouse or duplex

  • $4,040 per multi-family dwelling
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