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It isn't just schools. Tega Cay eyes fees to help pay for police, parks and more

As the cost of a new home rises throughout the Fort Mill school district, it's likely to increase even more in Tega Cay.

And city leaders will find out "any day now" just how much more they're talking.

Susan Britt, planning director in Tega Cay, said the final study on impact fees for her city could be done and reviewed by city staff by the end of the week. Britt plans to get at least a preliminary version in the hands of her planning commission in advance of its July 16 joint meeting with Tega Cay City Council.

"At that point, the final impact fee study will be presented (publicly)," Britt said.

As of the end of last week, numbers weren't finalized on how much new homes and businesses might pay should the city approve new impact fees.

"I really don't want to put anything out there until the report is completed," Britt said.

Impact fees are charges on new construction. The idea behind them is to have incoming community growth pay for at least some of the costs brought on by having more people. The Fort Mill school district has a fee on new homes and apartments, at $2,500. York County Council gave initial approval June 27 to increases it to about $18,000 per home and $12,000 per apartment.

The Tega Cay fees also would charge new homes, but also commercial uses. Fees would pay for parks and recreation, fire, police and utility improvements. Some may be new capital projects, while others could reimburse the city for recently constructed additions.

City leaders in Tega Cay largely have shown support for new fees. At a council meeting in May, the fees were part of the discussion for how new items, from a police station to the massive Catawba Park plan, might be financed.

Having impact fees doesn't mean a new development has to pay entire costs for those items.

"They have to pay their proportionate share," Charlie Funderburk, city manager, told council at that May meeting.

Some items may get more impact fee funding than others.

"There's not going to be a whole lot of impact fees that go to the police station, but there will be some," Funderburk told council. "Catawba Park, it won't be the whole thing, but yeah, there's definitely going to be some."

With the city able to serve its current population with water infrastructure but in need of a new water tower to serve approved or coming growth, that particular project could be a prime opportunity.

"The water tower is one thing where that expense would most certainly get gobbled up under those impact fees where you're looking at maybe not even any expense coming from your existing tax base," Funderburk said.

If, he cautioned council, they choose to implement the new fees.

"Let's finish the impact fee study, and then take another look at this thing," Funderburk said in May.

Now that finish line is well in sight. Though public hearing and final reading on impact fees wouldn't come until Aug. 6, having a first reading July 16 would allow the city to let developers or homebuilders know the fees are coming. York County announced through its planning department a timeline for when building permits would need to be requested to get the current, lower rate.

By holding its first vote the same night the county is expected to finalize the school district impact fees, Tega Cay is on the same plan.

"The intent on the city's part is to have both those impact fees effective the same time, to make it where you don't have builders coming in and getting one and not the other," said Chris Leonard, planning commission chairman in Tega Cay.

Unlike the school district fee, which only charges residential construction, the Tega Cay fees will include commercial construction too. Because numbers haven't been announced for how much a new fee might cost builders, there hasn't yet been the opposition in Tega Cay that mounted against the school district fee increase.

State homebuilder and real estate groups have opposed the school district fee, saying the dramatic increase will slow or stall building and that new homes in an area pay for themselves through job creation, increased tax base and other factors.

Leonard said as Tega Cay nears a vote on its impact fees, similar opposition wouldn't surprise him.

"I think the expectation is we will see some of that," he said.

In Tega Cay, many of the coming homes are part of already approved projects. Some businesses are, too. The Cadence and Windhaven residential projects are at the grading stage. Game On, the massive mix of sports, recreation, commercial and residential uses between Stonecrest Boulevard and Dam Road, just received conditional approval Monday night for the first residential portion.

If Tega Cay approves new impact fees, it will join the Fort Mill school district and town of Fort Mill in having them. Lancaster County is looking to add them for the Indian Land area, while York County is looking at a fee for its unincorporated areas.

All are in response to massive population growth in eastern York County and Indian Land, which are growing at nationally significant levels.

John Marks:; @JohnFMTimes

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