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York County eyes charging new fees to help pay for roads, public safety services

As York County awaits legal resolution on the one impact fee it charges, work continues that could add more.

County leaders haven’t forgotten about the potential new fees the county could charge in unincorporated areas. Last year, planners had two major fee questions on the table: whether to increase the existing fee charged within the Fort Mill school district and whether to charge new fees. County leaders said they’d finish that decision before diving in deeper on other new fees.

“We are still working with the consultant on three other fees that would apply to the unincorporated areas of York County if adopted,” David Hudspeth, planning and park services director for the county, told York County Council on Tuesday. “They would cover roads, waste management and public safety.”

York County Council last summer voted to increase the Fort Mill school district fee for residential construction only. County and state home builder groups, along with Shea Homes and Soni Construction, filed a lawsuit in September in York County Civil Court. The plaintiffs say the new fees of more than $18,000 per home and $12,000 per apartment unfairly limit growth. The fee since 1996 had been $2,500 per residence.

A motion by the defendants to dismiss the case goes to court March 19.

Before last summer, any new residence received the same charge. Now it splits by home or apartment. The money collected goes toward costs brought on by the growth of construction. Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Rock Hill and other municipalities charge varying impact fees for varying services.

The county collected $6.4 million for schools since the new fee collection start on July 16, 2018, through the end of last year. Of that, $5 million comes from the new rates. There were 199 homes paying either at the old or new rate, and 119 apartments paid at the new rate.

“This was a co-mingling of the old fee and the new fee,” Hudspeth said. “And the way it was structured was different in the old fee, in addition to being a different amount. It was paid differently.”

Council now is beginning to look into impact fees for the unincorporated areas of the county.

One goal is to specify which homes are exempt, Hudspeth said. For example, there were 83 homes exempted as retiree housing in Fort Mill’s impact fee.

“It is stipulated in the ordinance, but there’s some application of it that probably needs to be discussed a little further,” Hudspeth said. “Specifically about if it’s a retiree housing project, we expect those to be like a development of housing projects, not one or two houses.”

Just as the Fort Mill fee charges new residences that add to school attendance, fees can be charged based on impacts to roads, fire protection, recreation, library and other services. Fort Mill charges fees for municipal service, fire and recreation. Tega Cay started fees last year for recreation, police, fire and utilities.

Roads are a constant concern in York County. Regional planning shows traffic issues are likely to deteriorate in coming decades without major work to accommodate the influx of vehicles on the roads. The county approved a recycling agreement with Tega Cay on March 4, related to waste management. And a county subcommittee last week heard from law enforcement and firefighters on public safety issues related to growth.

Details aren’t yet available about potential new fees in York County, but could be soon.

“They are close to completing their report and I expect we would present something to Council within the next 90 days,” Hudspeth said.

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
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