Keep or kill Lee County impact fees? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Keep or kill Lee County impact fees?

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August 1, 2007

Lee County--  Some people who recently built homes or businesses in Lee County say a plan to get rid of impact fees isn't fair. They had to pay the hefty fees that were just implemented a year ago. Now some county leaders say those charges could hurt economic development and they want to do away with them.

New homes continue to spring up in Lee County. Anita and Terry West are counting down the days until their new home is complete.

"Hopefully in the next couple of months," said Anita West.

They're getting the home built themselves, a long and expensive process. One step was was paying impact fees. They still have the paper and the receipt to prove it.

"We ended up paying almost $3,000," said West.

The fee was just paid at the end of February. Now only a few months later there's talk that no one else will feel that impact. "I was disappointed that Lee County would have put this into effect only a year ago and then decided it wasn't in the best interest for Lee County to grow," said West.

"I base my decision to help the taxpayers of Lee County," said Lee County Commissioner Ed Duffy.

So far, the county has collected nearly a million dollars, mostly from residential growth. "In the impact fee fund, there's been $843,000 collected," said Duffy. But Duffy says there's no need for the county to collect those fees.

"You cannot spend this money," said Duffy.

The county can only touch the money for new capital projects like a new jail or library, things that could be paid for with sales tax revenue. "I think it's repetitious," said Duffy.

On top of that, developers who are interested in coming to Lee County say they won't pay the fees. Duffy says the key to Lee County's success is commercial and industrial growth. "We spent $4 million of money that we had to borrow to run sewer down 82, Fussell Road to the plant on 19 for one reason, one reason only, to attract commercial and industrial business."

More growth could mean more money saved by taxpayers but everyone isn't sold. West feels used.

"I hate to use the word stolen but I do feel like they've taken money from the residents," said West.  She feels commissioners should put more thought into it before making a decision. That way, the financial impact she just felt won't hurt as much.

Not every commissioner supports eliminating the fees just yet. Commissioner Jo Ealum said the county could look at waiving impact fees on a case by case basis.   Commissioners would have to approve a new ordinance before the fees would be eliminated.

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