Lee struggles over impact fees - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee struggles over impact fees

August 13, 2007

Leesburg -- Lee County commissioners are faced with a dilemma over their impact fees, do away with them to hopefully grow commercial development, or keep the fees and possibly lose more than four million dollars in commercial prospects.

The county seems to be split over the fees that last year generated $800,000 for the county.

In Lee County last year, up to 350 new homes were built. It's been that way since 2004 and doesn't show signs of slowing. For that reason alone, current residents say they need impact fees.

"People moving into the community, businesses moving into the community, need to take the burden of the cost of moving here instead of the locals having to pay for someone else moving in," said concerned homeowner George Johnson.

"The theory behind impact fees is that the new development would pay a fee that would eventually help pay for the cost of building new fire stations, new libraries, new recreations facilities, that serve the additional population," said Alan Ours, Lee County Administrator. 

Core Development plans to build a 300,000 square foot warehouse in the Oakland Meadows Business Park and Oakland Plantation has a North Carolina developer interested in 900,000 square feet of retail space, but neither want to pay the fee.

"To me that's a no brainer, are we going to sacrifice $4.8 million a year for moneys that go into the general fund for a one-time deal of $800,000 that you have to put into impact fees that you cannot touch, unless you use the money for permanent structures with a ten-year life span or more.

That's why Commissioner Ed Duffy is urging other commissioners to do away with the fee. "We're spending four million dollars to run sewer down 82 and Fussell Road for one reason and one reason only, it was to attract commercial and industrial growth," he said.

 "Most of them have never challenged the impact fees, we got a Chili's, we've had other companies that have come into this area, and they're paying the impact fees," Johnson said. 

The county could make an exception and waive the fees, but then they would have to foot the bill with taxpayer dollars. Ultimately the decision lies in commissioners' hands, a decision that will have costly consequences.

Commissioners will hold a work session Tuesday night at 6:00 PM, and will decide whether the decision to eliminate impact fees will come up for a vote August 28th. Commissioner Ed Duffy encourages citizens to attend the meeting and voice their opinions.

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