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Jefferson County has collected $1.7 million in impact fees

November 30, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - School impact fees have generated $1.7 million in Jefferson County, but it is not enough money to begin addressing overcrowding problems in schools, officials said Monday.

The next priority for Jefferson County Schools in terms of school construction is building a new elementary school, which will cost $3 million to $4 million, said Delores Milstead, vice president of the Jefferson County Board of Education.

School board President Lori Stilley said the cost of the school could rise to $5 million.

School impact fees, which went into effect Jan. 26, are designed to help fund school construction projects demanded by population growth.

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

Since the county began collecting the fees, 242 building permits have been issued, which has generated $1.7 million for the school system, said Mark Schiavone, Jefferson County's impact fee coordinator.

In Charles Town, the impact fee is collected under a proffer system being operated by the city, Schiavone said. It is unclear how much has been generated through the proffer system, Schiavone said.

The fees are being collected under a similar system in Ranson, W.Va., Schiavone said. That money also has not been turned over to the county, officials said.

The impact fees coming from Charles Town will include any impact fees that were generated during the time a lawsuit was pending against Charles Town, Schiavone said.

The suit, filed earlier this year by the Jefferson County Commission, alleges the city of Charles Town was issuing building permits without collecting school impact fees as an ordinance requires.

The suit eventually was settled.

Stilley said she hopes that impact fee money can be combined with funding from the state School Building Authority to build the new elementary school. Hopefully the project can be funded within the next two years, Stilley said.

No land has been obtained yet for the school, Milstead said.

Although some residents were concerned about how the school impact fees would affect some people's ability to purchase a home, home sales appear to be strong, said local developer Eric Lewis.

Lewis said his firm, D.L. Lewis Construction, is building custom homes that are selling for up to $1 million and the impact fee has not affected the rate of home sales.

Lewis said he knows of other developers in town who have waiting lists of people wanting to have homes built in the county.

He said he does worry about how the fee affects people's ability to build their own homes. Lewis gave the example of a child of a farmer who breaks off piece of the family farm to build a home and has to pay the $7,122 up front before any work can start.

Local developer Ken Lowe predicted that working class and low-income people will march on the courthouse steps someday to protest the impact fees.

"That's what's going to happen. Mark my words. There's a curtain that's about to fall on Jefferson County," said Lowe, who has developed several local subdivisions and built the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center near Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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