Horry County officials continue to explore idea of impact fees

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – County officials continue to explore the idea of impact fees in our area as they hope to move forward with a draft to try and broaden the laws regarding impact fees so there aren't as many restrictions, according to councilman Johnny Vaught.

As the law stands now, an impact fee is used to pay for some costs that help provide services to a development, but it only allows those fees to go towards things like capital improvement projects. Those restrictions are why Vaught said the county wants to broaden the law, to help them fund more infrastructure in the area.

Vaught said impact fees would help the county to avoid raising taxes. He doesn't think people who have lived here for years should have to pay for people moving to the area.

"We don't need all the restrictions on how we actually can spend the money, because we're supposed to know as council what the needs are and we should be able to make that determination without being so restricted by law that you have to do this and this and this and this before you can actually do what you need to do," said Vaught.

Lawrence Langdale of the Home Builders Association said they support impact fees under the law that exists today. He said the law today has specifics as to how the fee is collected, what it's used for, and the location in which it's used.

Langdale said he thinks there needs to be accountability associated with it and they should be required to give specifics as to what these fees are going towards.

However, Langdale said the association is open to suggestions by the county in regard to the law and if there's a way to help the county better utilize impact fees, the Home Builder's Association would be open to listening to that.

South Carolina Sen. Stephen Goldfinch said he's met with council a few times now and he understands the needs for a funding system like impact fees. He also said he understands the economic impact this fee would have on housing costs moving forward if it were imposed.

Traditionally, an impact fee is passed on to the person who eventually buys the home in that development, according to Goldfinch. Horry County will have to come to a conclusion and move as a unit, which will help to give them more influence in Columbia, said Goldfinch, but right now everyone needs to decide if this is in fact what's best for the county and move forward from there.

"The main concern that I've heard from the public is 'We don't want our taxes increased,'” said Vaught, “This would not increase their taxes, this would be allowing development to pay for itself rather than the rest of the county to pay for the development and pay for it on and on and on."

Vaught said this could be a long process before anything really happens, but they're hoping it moves quickly, because development in this area doesn't look like it's slowing down.

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