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Mount Pleasant Town Council to hear results of impact fee study

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A proposal to raise Mount Pleasant’s impact fees to the maximum allowed by state law was tabled just before a Town Council vote Tuesday night.

Councilman Joe Bustos, who led the effort, agreed to put his motion on hold after several council members suggested waiting until after a public hearing and an upcoming workshop on Feb. 21 to review findings of a study.

Some argued the work required to craft an ordinance by the town’s staff and legal counsel would likely have to be redone after receiving input. Bustos had made a motion to have an ordinance written to increase the town’s impact fees to the maximum allowed by law.

Impact fees are typically charged to developers to defray the costs associated with construction such as water, sewer, transportation and other public services.

Bustos made his case for increasing the impact fees by saying that property owners had seen tax increases and storm water fees more than double in the past few years, and that the town needed millions for a capital improvement plan.

“Impact fees, by state law, can be neither discriminatory or arbitrary,” Bustos said. “We have to have them matched to a goal that we need, and I think the millions of dollars that we’re behind or projected in our capital improvement plan, those goals we need to have funded as soon as possible because as time goes by we get further behind, and I believe we could use that money for bonding.”

He also said the urgency for increasing impact fees had to do with the increasing costs for road projects, such as Park West Boulevard, and the time it takes for approval of those plans along with the increasing costs of borrowing money on the bond market. He said waiting another month to put the law in place was time the town didn’t need to spend.

“That’s another month of construction going on. That’s another month of people moving in. That’s another month of delay of planning for roads,” Bustos said.

Councilman Mark Smith offered several reservations about going forward with crafting an ordinance before getting input from the General Assembly and public input during the upcoming hearing. He said he’d only been handed a copy of the study during a recent retreat and expected to get more information in next week’s workshop.

“We have a pending, upcoming workshop to review this report and have it presented to us. We have a scheduled, upcoming public hearing to get input from the public on this, and so the proposed ordinance that we’re going to have our staff’s time spent on could look entirely different … based on the facts and information that we’re given,” Smith said.

The workshop likely will be extensive and complicated. Mayor Linda Page said the consultant that put the study together said council members would need to spend at least three hours and possibly six hours to go through the findings of the study.

“The only thing I want is total vetting of this,” Councilman Elton Carrier said. “The word ‘maximum’ bothers me a little bit. I think there’s so many areas in this, and I went through it yesterday and today and there’s a lot of information. I think we’ve really got to sit down at the workshop and go through this thing.”

Carrier said he would also like to get waterworks involved in the discussion because those fees are frequently more than other fees levied by the town.

“If we’re going to price ourselves out of the business in homebuilding, then we’ve got a problem because then you’re not going to have any affordable housing,” Carrier said. “You’re not going to have any medium housing. I mean it’s going to be tough.”

Councilman Jim Owens said the word “maximum” needs to be looked into because a draft ordinance actually includes and recommends discounts under certain provisions. Bustos, for example, said developers can do work in lieu of impact fees.

Bustos said he wanted to have a first reading at next week’s workshop.

“I just don’t want this thing to linger,” he said.

Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142.

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