It’s Your Money: Horry County takes step towards implementing impact fees

It's Your Money: Impact Fees

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County voters said in November they would approve the idea of implementing impact fees on new construction projects throughout the county.

The one-time fee would be collected on new construction to help the county fund infrastructure projects to keep up with growth. The fee would be an alternate to raising taxes county-wide.

Before the one-time fee can be implemented, the county must conduct a study to prove the fee is needed.

Horry County selected TischlerBise, Inc to complete the study after a competitive bid process.

The study will cost the county $156,280.

However, funding for this study was not included in the 2019 budget, according to council documents.

To fund the study, council members said they pulled savings that the Public Safety Department had from software reimbursements.

The county also needed to use money originally set aside for salaries within the Planning and Zoning Department. Council member Johnny Vaught said those positions couldn’t be filled.

State law mandates a study be completed to estimate the effect of collecting fees before the fee is implemented.

Vaught said the study is just one part of the state law that the county finds problematic.

“There’s lots of hoops and lots of things that you have to jump through to impose and use impact fees and that’s why we haven’t bothered with it before. We’ve just gotten to the point where growth is happening so fast that we feel like development should pay for itself," Vaught said.

Currently, these fees can only be used to fund capital projects like roads or infrastructure. They also must be spent within three years and have to be used in the area around where they are collected.

Horry County council members are working with legislators to try to decrease these restrictions.

“What we would like is a different law, a modification to this law, that frees up the way we can use this money," Vaught said.

County council members said they would like to be able to use the money collected from the fee across the entire county and to fund operational costs.

“You can impose an impact fee on a development to build a fire station but you can’t put anybody in it and you can’t put any equipment in it,” Vaught said explaining an effect of the current restrictions.

Berkely White with the Horry Georgetown Home Builders Association opposes changing the state law.

“I don’t think it’s fair for someone to pay an impact fee and then that money be spent somewhere else because that’s not what an impact fee is. An impact fee is to provide services to the area that is being impacted by the new buyer," White said.

He said the association believes money collected from new homeowners should be used to improve area around that homeowner not wherever the county finds fit.

When it comes to the effect on the market, White said he doesn’t think it will have a big effect.

“I certainly think it does affect people but if it is providing services to those people that it affects. I think if you buy a house somewhere you want the fire department close by in case your house catches on fire," White said.

White said he doesn’t oppose impact fees, only lifting restriction on how they can be used. He thinks there could be tremendous benefit from implementing the fee.

“I don’t understand why they haven’t implemented impact fees. Look at like Carolina Forest, so much of that is in the county and if they would have implemented impact fees when Carolina Forest began, think of all the monies that would be collected to provide services to the resident of Carolina Forest," White said.

Multiple council members said studies have been completed in the past but they don’t remember an impact fee ever being approved due to all the restrictions.

The county said it expects the study to be completed sometime this summer.

If the study determines impact fees are necessary, the next step will be figuring out how much and where to implement them.

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