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Developers speak out against proffer proposal

January 06, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

A proposed $13,430 fee that would be charged to developers to help pay for public services in the city could not be acted on by Charles Town City Council members Monday night because there were not enough council members for a quorum.

Four council members were needed to take action on issues but only three - Matt Ward, John Ward and Bill Jordan - attended. Council members Russell Miller, Geraldine Willingham, Randy Breeden and Violet Lowery and Timothy Robinson were absent.

While the council attendance was thin, a crowd of people made up of developers, school officials and city residents showed up to share their views on the proposal.

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People associated with the area's development industry, such as Mark Dyck of William H. Gordon Associates, an engineering and planning firm, expressed concern about the fee.

Dyck said the proposed $13,430, which would be charged for every new house built, could chase small developers out of town.

Dyck said that when his business moved to the area, the owners believed they could establish a strong practice here. But he worries that the city's proposed fee could hurt his firm.

"There may be some middle ground, but I don't think we're there," Dyck said.

The city's fee proposal comes after the Jefferson County Commissioners recently approved a $7,122 school impact fee for every new single-family home built in the county.

State law says cities can have similar fee systems, but they are not called impact fees, city officials said.

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

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

Council member Matt Ward has said that Charles Town proposes to collect impact fee money within its boundaries through the proffer system.

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 proposed 3,800-home Huntfield development along U.S. 340 south of town 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.

A spokesman for Greenvest L.C., the Vienna, Va., firm that is developing Huntfield, said the proposed fee goes against an earlier agreement Huntfield had with the city.

Huntfield developers agreed to pay $700 to the city for every house built in the development, and the amount can be changed only after a review every three years, said Jim Duszynski, senior vice president of Greenvest.

"It's nothing we've agreed to," Duszynski said of Charles Town's proposed $13,430 fee.

A majority of the fee collected from developers would be made up of a proposed $8,300 proffer fee for the Jefferson County school system, Ward said.

The 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.

Jack Huyett, a city resident who was on a committee that came up with the proposed $13,430 fee, said the school system would lose more than $6 million a year if Charles Town lowered its school proffer fee to the level the commissioners approved.

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