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Impact Fee debate continues

By Staff | Mar 13, 2015

A vote by the Jefferson County Commission to reduce impact fees imposed on new construction met with resistance from the Jefferson County Board of Education who filed an injunction to halt the reduction.

A preliminary hearing Monday had Judge John Yoder grant a continuance of the case to allow the county’s commissioners to schedule a public hearing on the matter. Attorneys for both sides agreed to the measure with the next court date scheduled for March 27.

At least one commissioner voiced the opinion that the fees for schools and at least for vehicles for the county’s law enforcement department should be eliminated.

Commission vice president Patsy Noland said Tuesday at a rescheduled commission meeting that she believes the impact fees were a mistake when they were enacted and a mistake now.

Noland expressed her opinion that while the fees “have done a wonderful job for schools getting people out of trailers, they have caused problems for the county commission.” Problems, she said, come when things that were purchased with impact fees, such as vehicles for the sheriff’s department, need to be replaced, that responsibility then falls on the commission to find money in the general budget.

Noland went on to say that the county needs to increase its tax base and needs to do that through development. The commissioner cited information she said she received from one builder who, in a 10 year period, built 33 residential structures. Of those, only three had children, she said.

“People are moving into Jefferson County to retire,” she said, “not to raise families.” She went on to say that “We are becoming a retirement community.”

While agreeing that the tax base needs to expand in the county, Commissioner Walt Pellish deviated a bit from Noland in saying that no matter whether households have children or not, all are responsible for the education of students in the county.

Pellish went on to say that he does not believe the county’s Board of Education will be harmed by a reduction or elimination of impact fees.

“There is not one thing wrong with floating levies to build schools,” Pellish said with regard to receiving matching funding from the State School Building Authority. Funds from the state agency have come to the county because of the ability to match funds gained from impact fees.

Commissioner Dale Manuel, who was vocal against the impact fee reductions voted on by the county, said Tuesday, “You don’t grow the economy through increased housing because any increase is eaten up in services.”

Noland insisted that the tax base needs to be increased; however, she admitted that Jefferson County will never see economic development like Berkeley County because of the location of the itnerstate.

“I don’t want Jefferson County to be like Berkeley County,” she stressed.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Monday, March 16 at 7 p.m. in the commission meeting room in the lower level of the Charles Town Library.