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JCC hears residents’ thoughts on Impact Fee Study

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Feb 5, 2021

Community members commented on a proposed change to the impact fee amounts last week. The fees are charged on all new construction in the county. Toni Milbourne

CHARLES TOWN — The Jefferson County Commission heard from less than a dozen individuals during a public hearing on a draft Impact Fee Ordinance presented in December. The hearing, held last week, allowed members of the community to share their comments with the governing body regarding a draft ordinance proposing a significant increase in fees.

Comments were sought on the draft composed by TischlerBise, a consulting firm based in Bethesda, Md. In the report, TischlerBise recommended the fees, currently set at approximately $6,700 per single-family detached home and $4,707 per multi-family unit, be increased to $11,097 and $5,051, respectively.

The fees include components of county administration impact, Emergency Medical Services, law enforcement, Jefferson County Parks and Recreation and schools, with school receiving the predominant portion of the fees.

When fees were originally charged in the county, they did not include the administration impact. The new category is geared toward helping cover costs for things such as administrative facilities, court facilities and the cost of preparing the Impact Fee Study.

JCC President Josh Compton indicated many written comments had been received, but the virtual meeting was for community members to make comments in-person.

First to address the commission was Paul Marshall, a Shepherdstown resident and current member of the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission. Marshall described the benefits the park system has gleaned from impact fees gathered in the past.

“We at Parks and Rec have found the fees to be beneficial,” Marshall said. “Jefferson County Parks often uses the fees as seed money for grants.”

Marshall’s fellow board member, Ann Mountz, echoed his comments on the use of funds to generate additional dollars for the parks.

“I promote raising them somewhat, although the recommendations are too high,” Mountz said.

According to Charles Town resident Amanda Stroud, the numbers were not realistic, especially in the case of the county administration fee.

“The pandemic has taught us we don’t need to go into the office so we don’t need a courthouse annex,” Stroud said. “I would suggest taking the county administration fee and splitting it between parks and recreation and fire.”

Former county commissioner Patsy Noland voiced her concern over the study contents.

“It is a poorly written study,” she said. “I don’t believe the consultant has done his due diligence and has indicated growth that is over-inflated.”

Several members of the housing development community spoke as well, calling into question the data used to arrive at the proposed increase.

David Hartley, representing the Eastern Panhandle Homebuilders Association, said elementary school student enrollment is down, and school enrollment that was anticipated since the initial start of the impact fees in the county never reached the anticipated growth.

“This shows that the fees should not be increased,” Hartley said. “The EPBA urges you not to adopt them.”

Kyle Carter agreed, saying that while there is a place for impact fees, the proposed increase is based on inaccurate numbers.

“This increase, based on tenuous justification, doesn’t support this increase,” Carter said.

Lee Snyder also pointed out that fees need to be spent in areas of the county from which the fees have come. He alleged that parks have not been built in areas where construction has taken place.

“Ranson and Shepherdstown need new schools,” he said, “but, those are replacements and should not be covered by impact fees.”

The JCC will continue to take written comments for an additional two weeks, Compton said. He added that the next step will likely be a workshop with the consultant to further discuss the contents of the study.