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Rock Hill sets schedule of impact fee rate hikes

Council member Jim Reno and Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols listen during Monday’s Rock Hill City Council meeting.
Council member Jim Reno and Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols listen during Monday’s Rock Hill City Council meeting. David Thackham

The Rock Hill City Council approved and enacted an implementation schedule to levy impact fee rate increases over the next three years, despite the wishes of some who spoke out against the plan Monday night.

In a 5-1 vote, the council approved a package that would raise water/wastewater impact fee rates on new development in order to help fund improvements in the city’s water treatment systems.

Councilman Jim Reno was the lone dissenter, while fellow council member John Black was absent.

Some members of the public spoke out against the move, which they said would negatively impact low-income residents.

There’s going to be huge demands placed on our water and wastewater systems. If Rock Hill, as a provider, doesn’t prepare ourselves for that, in as balanced a way as we can, it will be doing a huge disservice to developers and the community.

Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols

“It will raise the cost of everybody’s house,” said Dale Dove, founder of the homeless services group Renew Our Community. “Builders would like to build smaller, better homes that cost less to operate.”

City officials say the rate hikes are needed to help expand the water treatment plant, add filters to improve service and keep up with demand. The plant, which services 36 million gallons of water per day, would be expanded to maintain 48 million gallons per day.

Developers have expressed concern at what they see as a dramatic fee increase. Currently, the combined water and wastewater impact fees for a structure with a 1-inch meter would total $2,218. Under the proposed rates, a similar structure would face a $7,950 fee.

The plan calls for no fee hikes in the first year, before implementing 50 percent of water and wastewater impact fee increases starting July 1, 2017 – and 100 percent of the hikes effective July 1, 2018. Council members approved a first reading of the schedule on Sept. 12.

The city has collected $14.3 million in impact fees since 2003.

Impact fees, first enacted in 2003, have not increased. The city has collected $14.3 million in impact fees since 2003. The council decided to delay a final vote on the initial plan proposed in June that would have raised the impact fees in one fell swoop.

“There’s going to be huge demands placed on our water and wastewater systems,” said Mayor Doug Echols. “If Rock Hill, as a provider, doesn’t prepare ourselves for that, in as balanced a way as we can, it will be doing a huge disservice to developers and the community.”

Opponents believe the hikes would both discourage developers to build in the city and lower the chance of affordable housing in Rock Hill.

Is that the measure of success? Sucking just a little less money out of the private sector than other cities?

Wes Climer, a Republican running unopposed in November for the S.C. Senate District 15 seat

Jacques Days, a pastor and president of the Rock Hill NAACP, said his organization had voted to voice its “displeasure” with the impact fees. He said they would be passed on to the new homeowners.

Wes Climer, a Republican running unopposed in November for the S.C. Senate District 15 seat formerly held by Wes Hayes, said the hikes would have an “inflationary effect across the board.”

Echols argued that he believed it was fair to levy the rate increases on developers who create the increased demand. Council member Kevin Sutton agreed, saying it would be a disservice to longtime residents to see raised rates.

Developers have said they recognize the need for the city to raise money for the improvements. But they say the impact fee rate hike on new development was too hard to swallow.

Rock Hill provides water to about 100,000 customers, including around 30,000 in Fort Mill, Tega Cay, the Catawba Indian Nation and other small private water suppliers.

Using the baseline 1-inch meter, developers would pay the existing one-time combined fee of $10,492 on new development until next July before paying $15,339 in fiscal year 2018 and $20,174 by fiscal year 2019. The full increase by mid-2018 would put Rock Hill closer to the median, when compared to areas such as Greenville County ($17,523), Tega Cay ($19,040) and Charlotte ($28,726).

Climer said he wasn’t convinced that the hikes would allow Rock Hill to remain an attractive option for business.

“Is that the measure of success?” Climer asked the council. “Sucking just a little less money out of the private sector than other cities?”

Without the proposed impact fee increases, the city would have had to pay for upgrades out of money earmarked for other projects, according to city officials.

RELATED CONTENT: City of Rock Hill’s latest draft on water/wastewater expansions or renovations

http://www.heraldonline.com/news/local/article98740912.ece/BINARY/City%20of%20Rock%20Hill’s%20latest%20draft%20on%20water-wastewater%20expansions%20or%20renovations

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham

What does this mean for me?

Are you a developer? The water/wastewater impact fee rates you pay on new development will stay the same until July 1, 2017. Then, there will be a 50 percent increase in those hikes. The full hike will be effective July 1, 2018.

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