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Settlement reached in impact fees suit

October 02, 2004|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A settlement was reached Friday in a "friendly" lawsuit filed in June by the Jefferson County Commissioners against the City of Charles Town over the collection of school impact fees on all new housing developments.

The commissioners agreed to accept an offer from the city to settle the dispute during a special meeting Friday and after an executive session with Jefferson County Assistant Prosecutor J. Michael Cassell.

Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton and attorney Doug Rockwell, who represented the city in the case, presented the commissioners with the offer.

Rockwell told the commissioners that both sides have been meeting for months trying to resolve their differences.

He asked the commissioners to "dismiss the suit without prejudice," which they did.

"Although a lawsuit was filed by the county, we are not adversaries," Hilton and Commissioners President Al Hooper said after the settlement was signed.

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"Unclear and untested legislation was the essential issue," they said. "Communications between the parties was always cordial and productive."

Hilton said he always has felt that the county filed the suit "because they were just trying to get the issue clarified."

Cassell filed the suit on behalf of the commissioners in June so a judge could resolve the issue, Hooper said.

The suit asked the court to uphold the county's impact fee ordinance and require the city to abide by it.

Hilton said the city objected to the rule that required it to withhold issuing a building permit until the impact fee was paid. The settlement requires the city to withhold building permits until fees are paid.

"We have always been willing to let the county collect the fees," Hilton said.

The ordinance requires that developers pay $7,122 for every new single-family home and mobile home, $5,562 for each unit in a townhouse or duplex and $4,040 for every multifamily dwelling unit. The money only can be spent on school construction projects.

Developers can donate land for school construction in lieu of fees.

The Jefferson County Board of Education will review the settlement.

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