Just about any municipality in the area either has an impact fee or is looking into getting one.
Add Tega Cay to the mix.
Tega Cay City Council is the latest group looking to impact fees as a way to pay for the costs of community growth. The same consultant doing a joint study for York County and the Fort Mill School District on impact fees will look at Tega Cay, too. A study has to be done before the city’s planning commission can recommend any new fees to council.
Impact fees are charges on new construction. They’re based on what impact that construction has on whatever type of fee is in place. So a school impact fee charges new homes since more residents typically mean more students to educate. A fire or police fee would be charged on new homes or businesses, since both need those services.
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Charlie Funderburk, city manager, said Monday morning there could be new fees fairly quickly if council decides to go that route. Council got its look at the proposal just hours later at its March 19 meeting.
“This literally came up Friday,” Mayor David O’Neal said Monday afternoon. “We’ve been asking about impact fees. This will be our first look at it.”
O’Neal said he hasn’t “talked to a single person yet” on council to gauge interest on impact fees, and another council member won’t be added until results are certified and the winner sworn-in after the March 20 election to fill the seat O’Neal left when he became mayor.
For his take, O’Neal sees value in impact fees.
“The people who live in Tega Cay keep having to buy this stuff, and it’s for the new people,” he said. “Why don’t we let the people who are moving here help pay for this stuff?”
If council agrees with him, the process could move quickly.
“If city council decides to move forward we could have an ordinance in front of them for consideration this summer and begin collecting those fees,” Funderburk said.
Whether to charge fees is one question for cities and towns. Another is, what fees to charge?
“Right now, the fees would be to fund capital improvement needs for police, fire, parks and recreation and utilities,” Funderburk said.
“We just built a new fire station last year and there are debt payments on those we could potentially capture, we have (a bid) out for a new police station that these fees could go towards and we have two sizeable parks — Catawba Park and Windhaven Park — that could be funded by these fees.”
A new elevated water storage tank and other capital needs could be possibilities, too.
Just looking into impact fees puts Tega Cay on a growing list. The Fort Mill School District has one that’s decades old, and which the district is looking to increase. Rock Hill has a fee structure. The town of Fort Mill set up fees in 2015. York and Lancaster counties are studying them now.
In Chester County, Councilman Brad Jordan voiced opposition to one of the largest projects his county has faced — set to add more than 800 homes — in part because his county doesn’t have impact fees.
“We don’t have impact fees in Chester County,” Jordan said. “Until we do, I don’t think we’re ready for a development of this size.”
In Fort Mill, one leader says he’s changed his tune on impact fees.
“I voted against it, but I haven’t seen any bad effect from it at all,” said Fort Mill Town Council member Larry Huntley.
Huntley points to the former Comporium building now used as town hall.
“We paid cash for it, and that came out of impact fees,” he said. “We’re getting ready to pay for a fire station and it looks like we can do that without a bond.”
The decision wasn’t an easy one. Impact fees passed by a single vote in Fort Mill after concern from the business community on adding costs for start-ups or relocations. The town decided not to charge for its transportation impact fee, which would supply much-needed money for roads but also but the greatest burden on business.
“We in effect don’t have a commercial impact fee, the way it’s set up,” Huntley said.
Plenty of new businesses have come to Main Street and elsewhere throughout the town since the fees started.
“It certainly hasn’t effected commercial,” Huntley said. “And you’d have to be a blind man to say it’s effected residential.”
O’Neal is aware of neighboring municipalities and their forays into impact fees. But, he said, Tega Cay can figure out what’s happening within its own limits.
“We’ve figured it out,” he said. “We just need to do something to recover the costs.”
Even though incoming homes and businesses bring more tax base, O’Neal said that process can take time. Longer, he said, than anyone would want to go without fire and police protection.
“We can’t wait for their tax money to come in,” he said.
While he hadn’t polled the rest of council prior to Monday night’s meeting, O’Neal said members generally have been of a similar accord when it comes to growth.
“I remember when I ran two years ago for council, I was saying we need to look at impact fees and we need to look at ways to pay for all this growth,” he said. “Two years later and people are running, and now everybody’s finally getting it. They’re saying the same thing.”