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Horry County leaders to take final vote on impact fees during Tuesday council meeting

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 9:27 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - The fees that would make building homes and commercial spaces more expensive in Horry County are back on the table this week.

After the majority of Horry County voters said they were in favor of impact fees in 2018, county council seems to be as close as it has every gotten to implementing them.

However, what fees end up being put into place may be for fewer sectors of infrastructure than what’s available.

Impact fees would be levied on both residential and retail construction. Fees are calculated and classified for particular service areas of infrastructure: transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, solid waste and stormwater. But there have been varying opinions among councilmembers on which impact fees should be put into place.

Legally, impact fees have to be levied on all development - residential and non-residential. According to original assessments, as depicted in the ordinance, an impact fee to support the transportation service area has the highest cost for both homebuyers and non-residential builds. It would tack on more than $3,000 to a single-family unit. A newly developed retail space would pay more than $5,000 per 1,000 square feet.

Some councilmembers said they’re not sure it’s worth the cost.

“We’re trying to make it a lot more fair for affordable housing, and we’re trying to make it a lot more fair for retail because we don’t want to run retail off,” said Councilman Bill Howard, who represents District 2. “Because that’s very important that they keep building more and more commercial, but if we make it too high, they’ll say, ‘We’ll go somewhere else.’”

Councilman Danny Hardee, who represents District 10, agreed, saying he wants impact fees to crawl before they start running, and that council could add additional impact fees in the future if need be.

“Let’s start out on the lower end, for public safety. That’s what we’ve got to take care of first,” Hardee said.

“The feeling seems to be now to be something less and then let’s see how it goes, and then grow it over time,” said District 4 Councilman Gary Loftus. “I think we’ll see something come out and exactly at what level and then how we handle it from then on is still up in the air.”

Howard said there are other pools of money the county can use to tackle roads. He said he doesn’t want transportation impact fees to hinder the county’s ability to receive those funds.

Hardee explained the funding acquired through impact fees has to directly go to capital improvement projects within a particular time limit.

Some councilmembers also think stormwater impact fees won’t come into play either since a stormwater fee already exists.

Tammy Baker, a longtime resident in a community off of Highway 90, was disheartened to hear of the possibility that stormwater and transportation impact fees could be taken off the table. She said the growth is increasing the area’s needs for this kind of infrastructure.

“If they’re going to take stormwater and transportation out of it, they might as well just dump it in the trashcan,” she said.

When it comes to how impact fees work, the developer would pay the money upfront, but the cost would end up on the home or building buyer’s shoulders.

“It’s no more to them than going and buying a 2x4 or a truckload of dirt,” Hardee explained. “Whatever total cost that house is - guess who pays it? Whoever who buys it.”

The Horry County Council will have a third reading and public hearing on the impact fees ordinance at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the county’s government and justice center in Conway.

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