We think the York County Council is on solid ground in resisting a plea to exempt a Tega Cay retirement community from school impact fees.
The developers of Stonecrest Villas had asked the county to waive the one-time impact fee of $225,000 on the new residential community because at least 80 percent of the property owners there are 55 or older. Developers, who brought an attorney to represent them at the meeting with council members, argue that the older residents would not have children of school age.
But council members fear that waiving the fee would set a bad precedent. Council Chairman Buddy Motz stressed that those who bought condominiums in Stonecrest Villas were well aware of the impact fees but chose to live there anyway.
Fort Mill took advantage of a window of opportunity by adopting local school impact fees just two months before the state eliminated school districts' right to charge them. Fort Mill now is the only district in York County to assess the fees, and only one of two in the state.
While the school district receives the proceeds, York County collects the fees and turns them over to the district. Although the council has the discretion to grant waivers, developers have failed to offer a compelling case for doing so in this case.
For one, it is possible that some school-age children will live in the community. And if the residential makeup of Stonecrest Villas changes in the future, the district would have lost an opportunity to assess impact fees.
The county is in no position to determine the specific impact each new residential development will have on the school district. It must have the option of simply assessing the fees fairly and evenly across the board.
Any fees or taxes that benefit local school districts ultimately serve the interests of the entire community, not just those with children who attend the schools. Taxpayers have never been exempted from school taxes simply because they have no children in the district. The assumption is that good schools improve the quality of life for all.
We suspect that at least a few of those who have purchased the condos in Stonecrest Villas, which start at $190,000, were attracted to the community because the state last year eliminated personal property taxes for school operations. Some new residents may have moved here from states where school taxes were much higher.
Perhaps they should be thankful for having to pay only their portion of the one-time impact fee.
York County is right to defend charging impact fees to new retirement development.
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