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School officials ask county to delay fee ruling

September 16, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County officials continued to debate Thursday whether a large development south of Charles Town should be granted a nearly $6 million break on the county's school impact fee.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent R. Steven Nichols and Jefferson County Board of Education President Lori Stilley requested that the Jefferson County Commission delay any action on the request to exempt the 821-home development from school impact fees.

People who will be living in the Four Seasons at Huntfield community in the Huntfield development will have to be at least 55 years old and they will not be allowed to have any children living with them, Huntfield officials have said.

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Because the development will not include any children, the developers believe they are entitled to an exemption from the school impact fee.

Developers must pay a $7,279 school impact fee for every housing unit they build in Jefferson County. The fees are used to help build school facilities needed because of population growth.

Stilley asked the commission to delay any action on the request until the board of education has a chance to formalize its position on the request. Stilley told commission members she does not believe the county has to give the exemption and the board of education has obtained an expert on the issue that will help craft its argument, Stilley said.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson gave a different view.

If the rules not allowing children in the Four Seasons at Huntfield are plainly set out in the development's covenants, Thompson said he could see where the development would not have an impact on the school system.

If the commissioners tried to implement the school impact fee on Four Seasons at Huntfield, Thompson predicted they would probably lose if the fees ever were challenged in court.

The request continued to concern members of the commission, including Commission President Rusty Morgan.

Morgan said the idea behind the county's public education system is that everyone pays to support it.

"Impact fees were put into place to maintain that tradition," Morgan said.

The commissioners agreed to continue studying the proposal and will consult their own experts to help them make a decision.

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