Horry County Council Member suggests impact fees for new residents

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - More than 20,000 people have moved into Horry County from 2010 to 2013, making it one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Horry County Councilman Harold Worley says the county is growing so fast that it's time to charge people to move here.

It's called an "Impact Fee," a one-time fee only for people who are building new homes and moving into the area. His concern is that new people are moving in and using up the already established county resources, without paying for their fair share.  The constantly-growing population is forcing the county to use reserve funds to cover the operation costs for different public services like maintaining the water and sewer system. At the current growth rate, in five years, the reserve funds could drain down to the dangerously low point.

When that happens, Councilman Worley says there will be two simple choices: charge you, or the new neighbors.

"It's either going to come from the impact fees for new people, new homeowners moving in to the area paying their fair share," Worley explained. "Or we're going to reach out to the taxpayers here in Horry County and the business community especially."

If the county doesn't start charging impact fees with new construction permits soon, Worley says council could eventually be forced to raise property taxes by as much as 10 mills. The increase would be more than the recent millage rate raise to help Horry County Fire Rescue with equipment, which was 6 mills, but the money would allow the county to spend reserve funds on capital projects like fixing roadways.

An Impact Fee might be new for Horry County, but it isn't a new concept in the Grand Strand. North Myrtle Beach charges more than $5,000 in impact fees for new homeowners to connect to the water and sewer systems, and Myrtle Beach charges as well. But with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber pushing for people to pack up and move here instead of just a quick visit, an impact fee could step on the chamber's efforts.

One woman who visits the area often said the fee would make her reconsider moving.

"It depends on the percentage of the fee and how it is," said Connie Lane. "If it's pretty high I probably would reconsider, because it would have an effect on my opinion as far as whether I would buy in here."

Worley says the county can't keep spending extra money to keep up with operations when it could be spent on capital projects to help with growth, like fixing roadways. At this point, there have been discussions, but county council has not made any official moves to get the impact fee enacted.

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