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City mulls fee system

December 29, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - With Jefferson County's impact fee system expected to start within weeks, Charles Town city officials have come forward with their own plan for a fee system.

Impact fees are collected from housing developers to help pay for new public services needed because of population growth.

To help pay for new schools, the Jefferson County Commission recently approved an impact fee system, which will require developers to pay $7,122 for every new single-family home they build.

Developers will have to start paying the fees on Jan. 26, county officials have said.

State law says cities can have similar fee systems, but they are not called impact fees, Charles Town Council member Matt Ward said.

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Fees that are collected in cities are referred to as "proffers," Ward said.

Under a proposal from a committee made up of council members and community leaders, the Charles Town City Council will decide on Jan. 5 whether to approve a proffer amount of $13,430 for every home built in six new housing developments in the city, Ward said Sunday.

A majority of the $13,430 that the city would collect from developers would be made up of a proposed $8,300 proffer fee for Jefferson County Schools, Ward said.

The $8,300 school fee reflects the amount a Maryland firm suggested the county use for its school impact fee for every single-family home in the county.

The commissioners, however, decided to reduce the proposed fee to $7,122.

When the commissioners passed school impact fees, they said agreements would have to be drawn up for the collection of fees inside towns and cities.

The city proposes to collect the impact fees within its boundaries through Charles Town's proffer system, Ward said.

The remaining $5,130 collected through Charles Town's fee would be used to pay for improvements to water and sewer services, police and fire protection, parks and recreation, city parking needs and library needs, Ward said.

The proffer fees only would apply to developments on properties that have been annexed into the town and subdivisions whose developers have agreed to pay some level of proffer fees to the city, Ward said.

Those developments include the 3,800-home Huntfield development along U.S. 340 south of the city and Norborne Glebe, a proposed 1,427-home development near the intersection of W.Va. 9 and the Charles Town bypass.

The rest of the developments are known as the Wu property, Spruce Hill, Winchester Cold Storage and Green Meadows, Ward said.

Ward said he believes city council members will pass a proffer system on Jan. 5, but it remains to be seen what the fee amount will be.

Ward said some city leaders believe the city should use the county's school impact fee amount of $7,122 instead of trying to increase it to $8,300, Ward said.

Like Ward, Councilman Randy Breeden said he hopes the council will pass some form of proffer system.

"Is there going to be a debate on it? I'm sure there will be," Breeden said.

Councilman Russell Miller said he was unaware of the proposal and may not be at next Monday's meeting.

Ward said the proffer fee system is vital to meeting the needs of the city as it grows.

"If this town is going to grow big, we need to grow up," Ward said.

If council members approve the proffer system, it could go into effect immediately, although Ward said the city probably would not start collecting the school proffer fee until about Jan. 21.

The remaining fee amounts would be collected starting around Feb. 5, Ward said.

The Washington County Commissioners earlier this month unanimously decided that developers will be charged an impact fee of about $6,500 per dwelling unit, money that will pay for projects that will increase capacity in schools, such as building new schools or additional classrooms.

The fee was approved as part of the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO). The ordinance ensures roads, schools and other infrastructure are adequate to handle growth.

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