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Proposed impact fees for roads divisive in Forsyth County
Commission gets an earful during public hearing

FORSYTH COUNTY — A public hearing Thursday night on proposed changes to Forsyth County’s impact fee structure drew impassioned speakers on both sides of the issue.

The hearing was the first of two the county commission is required to hold on the matter, and no action was taken.

However, the commissioners did vote 3-0, with Jim Boff absent and Pete Amos recused due to a financial contract that may be affected by the changes, to send the proposal back to the county’s impact fee advisory committee.

This will be the second time the group has been reconvened. Last month, it voted 8-0 to drop proposed road impact fee for commercial developments.

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

The county does not currently collect impact fees for roads, which was a contentious proposition Thursday night.  In total, about 15 people — eight for and seven against the road fees — spoke during the hearing.

In general, those who supported the new levy appeared to favor lower density. One speaker referenced last year’s $200 million transportation bond.

“In 2014, when we were asked to take on an additional tax burden to fund the transportation bond I voted yes, because I was looking down the road into the future and saw the need,” said resident Hugh Calvert.

“I’m paying my fair share through the bond … and I believe that going forward, the fair share should rely on the people developing those areas and not existing homeowners.”

Those against the proposed fees indicated they could hurt commercial and residential growth. 

Doug Dillard, a zoning attorney and member of the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association, said such fees should only be used to determine the impact of a development and not existing issues.

Clancy Mullen of Duncan Associates, a firm the county hired last year to study the fees, has previously said a road impact fee could generate $135 million over five years.

Complicating the proceedings was an announcement from David Gruen, Forsyth’s chief financial officer, that the county had received “over $150 million in additional road dollars for road improvements” from the state than previously anticipated.

Though that would provide extra funding for projects, it would also change the formula and outcome of the impact fee study. Gruen said he would work with Mullen to see how the new money would affect the fees.

Though road impact fees are the most contentious, they are not the only recommendations from the committee.

Other recommendations: 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 group also suggested changing the methodology behind the fees from residential property by changing single-family detached and multi-family from a per foot basis to per unit, and for mobile home parks to go from per foot to per space.

Forsyth currently levies impact fees for parks, libraries and fire/E911. They are collected on a countywide basis for parks and E-911 and on a north-south split for libraries and fire services.