Mt. Pleasant impact fees on track to increase

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Mt. Pleasant leaders voted to increase impact fees at a special council meeting Tuesday in efforts to counter the cost of ongoing development.

Council members voted in favor of a 33 percent increase in impact fees across all categories, with the exception of a 45 percent increase in transportation impact fees.

The motion, introduced by Council member Jim Owens, would increase fees for a period of one year though Owens said the goal is to increase the rate to the maximum amount over the course of a three year period.

"We've been charging about $1,800 per lot for residential area," Owens said of the 33 percent increase. "That went up about $3,400 dollars today. All of us are in agreement that we need to do something."

Council members were at odds over how much the increase should be.

Councilman Joe Bustos put forth the original motion earlier this year, requesting an increase to the maximum extend of S.C. law.

That motion failed Tuesday, in addition to another failed motion proposed by Councilman Mark Smith who proposed a 20 percent increase, 4 percent annually over the course of five years.

The town enacted an impact fee ordinance in June 1988, allowing Mt. Pleasant to collect payments from developers to counter the costs of certain off-site capital improvements needed to facilitate future growth.

Mt. Pleasant currently collects impact fees for public services, recreation, police and fire services, transportation and general services.

The premise of the impact fees is to pass the cost of new developments to the developers, rather than the town's existing tax base. Collected funds can be used for projects such as road improvements.

"If it doesn't come from impact fees, it could come from taxes, and I don't think any of us want to do that," Owens said. Mayor Linda Page said other revenue options currently exist, including the recently passed half-cent sales tax. 

According to a presentation presented during Tuesday's workshop, impact fees are collected in neighboring municipalities including the town of Summerville, city of Charleston and Dorchester County.

The 33 percent and 45 percent increases will need to go through an official first and second ordinance read, in addition to public hearing, before final approval.
In January, town leaders asked planning staff to re-examine the current impact fee ordinance to see if adequate fees are being collected to accommodate infrastructure needs. The results of the study, which includes an examination of affordable housing, will be discussed at Tuesday's meeting.
Mt. Pleasant was the nation's 10th fastest-growing city, according to the U.S. Census. Mt. Pleasant is part of the Charleston-North Charleston metro area, one of the nation's 20 fastest growing. The town experienced a 4.7 increase between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015, with a population of 81,317 in 2015.
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