Mount Pleasant Leads the Way on Controversial Development Impact Fees

Mount Pleasant Leads the Way on Controversial Development Impact Fees

Mount Pleasant is “ground zero” for establishing development impact fees as a way to help pay for the rapid growth in the community. The town is under pressure to find ways to fund development related costs and is at the forefront in the state to establish the impact fees. Most of the counties and municipalities in the state including the three largest cities and Myrtle Beach do not have development impact fees to deal with infrastructure related costs.

“Mount Pleasant is ground zero for all this – I think everyone in South Carolina would agree – although Beaufort (County) is not far behind,” said D. Paul Sommerville, chairman of the Beaufort County Council, in a report to the Post & Courier.

“When you have explosive growth you get behind on infrastructure and it’s nearly impossible to catch up,” said Mr. Somerville.  “Nobody wants to pay more taxes or fees unless they can see a problem, but when you see a problem, you’re already behind the curve.” Developers would disagree that impact fees are the solution to dealing with related development costs such as infrastructure. They believe it discourages development and raises the cost of building and buying homes.

“If the impact fee on a house is more, that just makes the house more expensive,” said Chris Fraser, managing director of brokerage and property management company Avison Young. He told the Post & Courier, “It’s not going to slow residential growth.”

“On the flip-side, if you’re building a medical office and you have to pay an extra $200,000 or $300,000, you might decide not to build it,” Fraser said. “We’ve had one doctor walk away from a contract, for an office he was going to build (in Mount Pleasant).”

The town of Mount Pleasant has been requiring impact fees since 1988, and the town has tripled in population size since then to become the fourth largest city in South Carolina.  The affluent town has used the revenue to pay for new roads and improvements and the impact fees have “helped us get a lot done,” said assistant town administrator Christiane Farrell. The town has recently elected a new mayor, former Mount Pleasant Councilman Will Haynie, who supports raising impact fees.

Mount Pleasant’s impact fees do not only include new construction, but also any new business that is established in an existing building that could generate more traffic than the previous business. “The higher the traffic generator it is, the higher the cost will be,” said Farrell.  “A gas station is going to be really expensive because they are a big traffic generator.”

Source: Post & Courier, “Mount Pleasant is ‘ground zero’ for controversial development impact fees in S.C.,” by David Slade, November 19 2017

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