FORT MILL, S.C. — A standing room only crowd of about 500 packed the council chambers in York Wednesday night to discuss an $18,100 impact fee on all new home construction in the Fort Mill school district.
The crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of the fees, which will help pay for the fast growth that the area is seeing, and the fees were approved with a 5-2 vote.
Some community leaders worried that the proposed fee could make the town unaffordable for low- and middle-income families.
"Teachers, nurses, firemen, policemen, everyone who serves won't be able to live where they serve," York County realtor Pam Morrell said.
Morrell is one of many who shoed up at the Wednesday night's public hearing before the York County Council.
The Fort Mill School District asked county leaders to approve an impact fee on all new residential construction. The fee, according to county auditors, would be $18,100 for every new home built. That's regardless of the home's square footage, neighborhood, or cost to build.
The fee on multi-family construction would be roughly $12,020 per unit.
Fort Mill School District officials said newcomers should shoulder more of the burden for the growth they are bringing with them.
"So, this is a way for the new growth coming in to actually pay for what they are causing with the expansion of the community," school spokesman Joe Burke said.
Fifteen years ago, there were just under 6,000 students in Fort Mill schools.
There are now more than 15,000, with 18,000 projected in three more years, which will equal the number of students the Rock Hill School District currently has enrolled.
Burke said current Fort Mill residents have seen their taxes increase to pay for new schools as the district has asked for bond issues for capital projects.
The school district just asked for a $190 million bond issue to build three more schools.
Officials said impact fees will offset that, reducing property taxes for people who've lived here for years and bear the burden.
The money will also allow the district to reduce its debt from the bond payments.
Tim Knol, who moved to a brand-new Fort Mill neighborhood three years ago said for existing homeowners like him, the impact fee is a win.
"That's gonna just raise the property value of all those houses as they get built, and so it's actually gonna raise my property value, which is a good thing for me," Knol said. “If it slows the growth a little, so we can catch up, like with the roads, that's a win too, I think."
However, homebuilders will likely have to absorb some of that extra cost or pass that $18,000 fee on to new homebuyers.
Fort Mill has had a $2,500 impact fee in place for several years.
Morrell said that fee went mostly unnoticed and has had little impact on the market or home prices.
She worries this one will be much different.
"It could be horrendous," Morrell said.
Burke said a private firm that came up with the $18,100 impact fee proposal used several studies that showed what an average new resident cost the area.
The York County Council wasn't expected to vote on the proposal until next month but decided to go ahead with the vote after the public hearing Wednesday night.
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