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Proposed impact fee changes draw scrutiny in Forsyth County

FORSYTH COUNTY — It appears the work of Forsyth County’s recently disbanded impact fee committee may not be finished after all.

During a called work session Wednesday, the county commission voted 5-0 to add a discussion of impact fees and a resolution reconvening the eight-member advisory panel to the agenda for its next session on Tuesday.

The decision came amid concern from some officials that the committee, which made its recommendations in September, did not adequately represent commercial developers, who would pay a large amount of a proposed new impact fee for roads.

“We did not put one single commercial developer on that committee,” said Commissioner Cindy jones Mills. “There is a world of difference between a residential developer and a commercial developer. They don’t think alike. They don’t deal in the same world.”

Prior to the vote, commissioners heard a presentation on the potential changes to impact fees from Clancy Mullen of Duncan Associates, a firm the county hired last year to study the matter.

Impact fees are charges for new development that help cover the cost of increased demand on roads, infrastructure, services and amenities.

The county currently collects impact fees on a countywide basis for parks and E-911 and on a north-south split for libraries and fire services.

Mills was concerned that if commercial developers were required to pay a higher amount in Forsyth than neighboring areas, it would make the county less competitive for new businesses.

Mullen said the addition of road impact fees could pay for a large amount of upcoming county road projects.

“With roads, if these fees that were proposed were implemented at 100 percent, you could generate about $135 million over the next five years,” he said. “[That] would equate to almost two-thirds of your planned growth related project funding for the next five years.”

At its last meeting, the impact fee committee recommended the county charge road fees.

For the first year of them, single-family detached would collect $5,317 in impact fees, with $3,372 for multi-family and $3,011 for mobile homes.

Under the first year, the fees could collect $5,228 for retail/commercial, $4,163 for office, $1,369 for industrial warehouse and $2,700 for public/institutional.

Other changes favored by the committee were combining fire and E-911 levies into a public safety fee; changing library and public safety fees from a north-south divide to countywide; and using both active and passive parks as part of park impact fees level of service.

The committee and Mullen also recommended altering how the fees were assessed and changing the collection of fees for residential properties. They recommended that single-family detached and multi-family shift from per foot to per unit, and for mobile home parks to go from per foot to per space.

For commercial properties, the only proposed change is renaming office/business to office/institutional. The other three residential categories are retail/commercial, industrial/warehouse and public/institutional.

Commercial property impact fees would still be assessed on a per 1,000-square-feet basis.

A public hearing on the proposed changes to impact fees is scheduled for the commission’s meeting Nov. 19.