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Forsyth County mulls impact fees for parks and recreation

FORSYTH COUNTY — Less than two weeks after approving a new impact fee structure, Forsyth County is looking at revising some categories.

Officials recently talked about, but did not take any formal action on, examining how parks and recreation impact fees are assessed and whether the county should consider splitting some of the non-residential categories.

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

Earlier this month, the commission approved a new fee schedule that included road impact fees for residential categories, though not for non-residential.

During an April 12 work session, commissioners seemed in favor of looking into a new parks fee. The county’s parks and recreation department is currently funded in large part by the shrinking parks, recreation and green space bond voters approved eight years ago.

“We [were] bond-approved in 2008 for $100 million. We had [1-cent sales tax money] prior to that … The whole idea of impact fees, as I understand it, is to maintain a current level of service,” said Commissioner Brian Tam.

“There is no funding for any more recreation in this county to speak of, it’s just not there. So we’re talking about maintaining a certain level of service.”

According to Tam, the impact fee discussion had centered on a road levy, and that the price the county paid for park land was lower than the current value, which was used in the study.

He also said he would not be opposed to businesses paying impact fees for parks, since some use the amenities to attract workers.

County staff members were directed to take a closer look at the data and then present it at a work session in July.

Also this summer, commissioners hope the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce can make a presentation on whether to add more categories for non- residential development.

The county currently has categories for retail/commercial, office, industrial/warehouse and public/institutional. Road impact fees were not added to non-residential fees due to concerns they could make it more difficult to bring in new business.

“There are some types of commercial that can pay a fee, but we want to attract other kinds of commercial,” said Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills.

If new categories were added, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said, some could possibly pay road impact fees.