Here’s when a trial could decide if builder fees for Fort Mill schools are legal

As Fort Mill schools budget for more students, they have a list of coming attractions in the lawsuit affecting more than $9 million in available revenue.

The school impact fee case -- brought against York County related to Fort Mill school district fees -- could be decided by mid-October. Impact fees are charged on new residential construction with the intent of helping pay for growth-related costs that construction adds.

State and county homebuilder groups in September filed a lawsuit against South Carolina, York County and seven current or recent York County Council members.

Shea Homes, Soni Construction, Home Builders Association of South Carolina and Home Builders Association of York County are the plaintiffs. They say the county-approved Fort Mill school impact fee increase from $2,500 per residence to more than $18,000 per home and $12,000 per apartment would harm builders financially. They also say it serves as a de facto moratorium on homebuilding and is based on unconstitutional state law.

Council members have since been dismissed from the lawsuit.

Judge Daniel Hall on May 23 issued an order outlining steps for the case.

The parties agreed to a non-jury trial. Mediation isn’t required, but can happen until Aug. 15. Limited discovery in the case runs through July 1.

The plaintiffs have until Aug. 15 to serve the court its arguments. The state and county have until Sept. 16 to respond. The homebuilders then have until Oct. 1 to respond.

The trial will follow, on or after Oct. 14.

With a trial still months away, the district already is considering how impact fees can help toward budgeting. In recent months, school leaders said they wouldn’t use impact fee revenue as the litigation continued.

At a public hearing Tuesday, the school board decided to use a portion of impact fee revenue in the coming year to offset a proposed tax increase. The school board will vote on the budget June 4.

The Fort Mill district began collecting impact fees in 1996. In recent months, groups from Lancaster County to Clover began looking into their own fees to help offset growth costs.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released population estimates for cities and towns nationwide. Fort Mill not only led the York, Lancaster and Chester counties area with a 13% year-over-year growth, but nearly doubled any other area with an 84% growth rate from 2010 to 2018.

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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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