The date is set.
On Dec. 9, attorneys on both sides of the impact fee case with widespread implications will gather in a York County courtroom to argue their sides.
An order was issued Tuesday morning outlining the schedule of events in the Fort Mill school impact fee case. The school district fees are one-time charges on new residential construction.
In mid-2018 York County, at the request of the Fort Mill school district, studied and ultimately raised fees on new construction of homes and apartments. In the fall, homebuilder groups sued claiming the fees should not be allowed.
Attorneys on both sides have been working together to speed up a decision. They agreed on a non-jury trial. That court decision doesn’t require mediation.
They agreed to separate secondary claims — seeking damages — from the main claims against the state rule allowing fees and the way York County implemented it last summer. That way, the court doesn’t have to consider damages and similar issues until after tackling the main issue of the fee itself. If the court rules against the homebuilder groups on the main issue, it wouldn’t need to try the secondary ones.
Here are the highlights on what to expect next:
▪ Mediation isn’t mandatory, but if attorneys on both sides decide to hold it, they’ll have to hurry. It has to happen before Aug. 15.
▪ Both sites will submit facts and exhibits to the court ahead of time to be used as primary evidence in the case.
▪ The homebuilder attorneys have to serve their legal arguments by Sept. 11, a year to the date of when they filed their case against the fees.
▪ Defendants, which include York County and the state of South Carolina, have until Oct. 10 to respond to those complaints.
▪ The homebuilder groups have until Nov. 1 to reply.
▪ The non-jury trial is Dec. 9.
Tuesday’s order updates a timeline from May. Records show six cases on Judge William McKinnon’s docket for the week of Dec. 9. Two are already settled. Another will be rescheduled to at least spring. The impact fee case is the only one of the remaining three assigned a date.
Information on the court docket shows the bench trial should take one or two days. It doesn’t indicate whether the judge will rule from the bench or issue an order at a later date. It’s common for cases of this much detail to have a judge take the arguments and rule later.
When a decision comes, it won’t just be Fort Mill watching. A major part of the case hinges on the idea South Carolina’s rule allowing impact fees shouldn’t be allowed. Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Tega Cay have municipal impact fees. Clover schools are looking for a new fee. Chester and Lancaster counties or school districts have looked into impact fees.
Fort Mill started the trend locally. In 1996 the district began charging $2,500 for each new home or apartment. The money would be used to help pay for costs brought on by growth. School impact fees charge on residential development only. Municipal impact fees charge residential and commercial construction.
Last summer the district argued $2,500 per residence isn’t enough with many new homes and apartments being built. York County upped the fees to more than $18,000 per home and $12,000 per apartment. The state and York County homebuilder associations joined Soni Construction and Shea Homes filing a lawsuit against that increase.
On March 19 attorneys on both sides argued in a York courtroom whether the case should be dismissed or proceed toward trial. In early April Judge Brian Gibbons ordered the case should proceed.