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Views differ for impact fee opponent, commissioners

January 08, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

The effort to put Jefferson County's new school impact fee system to a countywide vote took an 11th-hour twist Wednesday night when the man who is pushing for the election said he has discovered that under state law he has another 63 days to collect signatures for the referendum.

But the Jefferson County Commissioners say the cutoff date for collecting signatures to put the issue to a vote is today at the close of business.

Paul Ashbaugh, who is leading the referendum campaign, said he believes he has until March 11 to collect the needed signatures.

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The commissioners have said that county residents have 45 days from the date that the commissioners passed impact fees to obtain enough signatures to put the issue up for a vote. The commissioners passed impact fees Nov. 24, which means the 45-day period ends today.

Ashbaugh said after reading the state Local Powers Act, the law which allows counties to pass impact fees, he believes he has more time.

Ashbaugh said the Local Powers Act says county residents have 45 days from the date on which impact fees are "imposed" to collect signatures.

Ashbaugh said he believes imposed means the date on which the county plans to begin collecting the fees, which is Jan. 26.

Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss disagrees.

Corliss said the commissioners are required to wait 60 days from the time of passage of the fees before they can start collecting them. The 45-day period set aside to give residents time to collect signatures for a referendum runs concurrently with the 60-day period, Corliss said.

Corliss said he assumes the 45-day period and 60-day period are designed to run concurrently to make the process orderly. Corliss said it would not make sense to allow residents to put the issue up for a vote after the county has begun collecting the fees.

"The Local Powers Act is not well-written. That's the problem," Corliss said.

But Corliss said he is not concerned.

"I think we're on solid ground," he said.

Ashbaugh said he plans to continue his effort for a referendum and plans to discuss the issue with the commissioners at their regular meeting this morning.

In addition to dropping off petition forms at area businesses, Ashbaugh said his campaign has included putting up signs encouraging people to sign the petitions.

"We're going to put signs all over this county," Ashbaugh said Wednesday night.

Under the law that allows impact fees, 15 percent of the county's registered voters can petition the Jefferson County Commission to put the issue to a referendum.

The commissioners have said 15 percent of Jefferson County's voters is about 3,667 people.

Earlier Wednesday, before he re-examined the Local Powers Act, Ashbaugh said it appeared he would not have enough signatures to force a referendum. As of Wednesday night, Ashbaugh said he had about 1,500 signatures.

He said he expected the number to climb as high as 1,600 today after picking up some more forms at businesses.

Impact fees are designed to help pay for additional services needed because of growth. Although the commissioners initially considered funding a variety of services with the fees, it was decided that the fees would be used only to help fund new school construction.

Developers will have to pay $7,122 for every new single-family home and mobile home they put up, $5,562 for every townhouse or duplex and $4,040 for every multi-family dwelling.

Ashbaugh, who has been involved in home building and building lot sales in the county, said he wants impact fees to go to referendum because he is concerned about how they will affect home builders and people's ability to purchase homes.

Ashbaugh said it is not fair that someone who wants to purchase a mobile home in the county will have to pay the same $7,122 impact fee as someone who purchases a single-family home.

Although impact fees are paid by developers, many people believe the fees will be passed on to home buyers in the form of higher house prices.

School officials argue that it is up to the developer to decide how much of the impact fee is passed on to the buyer.

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