Seven defendants are off the hook in the Fort Mill school impact fee lawsuit, but the case will continue as money piles up, unspent, by the district.
Attorneys representing local and state homebuilders on Feb. 15 filed an agreement reached with attorneys representing the state and York County to remove seven defendants. York County Council members Michael Johnson, Allison Love, Robert Winkler, William Roddey, Christi Cox and Britt Blackwell, along with former council member Chad Williams who served when the case was filed, are no longer listed.
York County remains a defendant, along with the State of South Carolina.
“Neither defendant can hereafter say that the individual members are necessary parties to fully litigate the issues,” said county attorney Michael Kendree.
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Efforts to obtain comments from the plaintiff attorneys were unsuccessful.
The agreement comes after the state motioned Jan. 25 to have the case dismissed. The state says its development impact fee act does not violate constitutional rights, and it doesn’t implement or enforce the county impact fee in question.
The home builders’ attorneys first filed with the South Carolina Supreme Court saying impact fee increases for the Fort Mill school district are unfair, unconstitutional and de facto moratorium on homebuilding.
The case was then filed Sept. 11, 2018, in York County civil court.
The listed plaintiffs are the Home Builders Association of South Carolina, Home Builders Association of York County, Shea Homes and Soni Construction.
A development impact fee is a charge on new construction used to pay for growth costs created by the construction. Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Rock Hill and other places have municipal impact fees. The fee is used for recreation, fire, police and other costs. York, Lancaster and Chester counties are in various stages of researching impact fees.
Money from the school fees traditionally has been used for capital costs. School leaders say the higher fee amount can be used, if the legal case turns out in their favor, to reduce taxpayer costs related to paying for a growing district in need of new schools and related resources.
The Fort Mill school district started a $2,500 per residence fee in 1996. York County implements that fee, which is charged only within the school district’s boundaries, which is why the county is listed in the legal action. In July, the county raised the school impact fee to $18,158 per home and $12,020 per apartment.
The homebuilder groups then filed suit citing hardships, including a statement that the higher fees are a “pretext for a moratorium on building.”
From August through December, the district added 536 residences adding up to $6 million in impact fees.
School officials have said they aren’t using the extra impact fee money collected on each new home and apartment since that money is tied up in litigation. District spokesperson Joe Burke said this week that’s still the position.
“On the school district side everything is the same,” he said.