Group vows to fight impact fee

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Officials with a local builders’ group threaten to fight a proposal to charge residential developers fees to help pay for their impact on public services.
The draft land-use study for western Rowan County recommends enacting an impact fee or adequate public facilities fee on all major subdivisions. No dollar amount is specified, but members of the Land Use Steering Committee briefly discussed a $15,000 fee per lot.
Top officials with the Salisbury-Rowan Home Builders Association say they will do whatever is necessary ó including going to court ó to block the fees.
“We’re in the middle of a recession, we don’t need impact fees,” said Eric Beaver, a Landis builder who has served several terms as president of the local home builders group.
A second public workshop on the land-use study is set for 5 to 8 p.m. today in the main lobby at South Rowan High School.
Beaver said the Home Builders Association would join with any developer to mount a legal challenge if the fees are enacted.
“We will fight tooth and nail any type of adequate public facility fee,” said Mac Butner, executive director of the association. “We will fight it to the death.”
Butner, a longtime local Realtor and broker, said the fight against the fees is the No. 1 issue for home builders across the state.
“It’s a regressive measure targeting a specified industry,” Butner said, “It’s not fair to penalize one industry.”
Butner said the proposed fee for Rowan County will likely be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Salisbury-Rowan Home Builders Association.
County planners recommended against including the fee proposal in the land-use draft study.
Ed Muire, county planning director, advised the 11-member steering committee that, in his opinion, impact or adequate public facility fees are illegal.
Muire cited various court ruling and opinions of various legal experts.
The prospect of a adding a per-lot fee for new residential development to help offset the cost of new schools drew some interest from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners in 2005.
Commissioners invited Richard Ducker, an expert from the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill, to explain the fees, their implementation, the benefits and the problems.
Ducker said only two counties, Orange and Chatham, have legal authority from the N.C. General Assembly to have impact fees.
Ducker noted that Cabarrus, Stanly and some other counties collect money through the use of an adequate public facilities ordinance tied to the county’s zoning and subdivision ordinance.
Ducker noted that Cabarrus County doesn’t charge an outright fee but seeks a “voluntary contribution.”
That contribution is now more than $8,000 per lot.
The Cabarrus home builders organization has joined a developer in challenging the legality of the contribution.
China Grove is the only municipality in Rowan county with an adequate public facilities fee.
Commissioners here have shown little interest in the fees, but have expressed concerns that more and more builders of low-end housing may look at Rowan.
But impact fees apply to all builders.
Beaver, who has been in the business of building homes for 36 years, said that while he understands the concern about large builders coming in from outside the county, the fees would also hurt small builders who have been here for years.