Home builders

Lowcountry home builders say school impact fees could negatively impact construction

BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (WSAV) – Beaufort County Council officially approved a new impact tax last week that it hopes will help schools.

But home builders and buyers say it will have too much of an impact on the construction boom in the Lowcountry.

“The guy or the girl who held onto that permit only for a week and intended to give it back will be really upset,” said Meg James.

The fees must be paid by developers or builders or passed on to buyers before they obtain a building permit. It affects every new home built in unincorporated areas south of the Broad River like Moss Creek, Windmill Harbor, and those new homes on Dafuskie Island.

But it could soon expand to Bluffton, Hardeeville and Hilton Head Island.

According to Meg James of the Hilton Head Area Homebuilders Association, the fee will now cost someone who wants to build a house $ 9,535 more, $ 4,508 per unit in multi-family units.

“They bought a house but the permits haven’t been signed yet,” says James. “They now have to find a new $ 10,000. If they have a loan from the bank, there could be complications there. “

James says banks are still working on these new fees, and whether they can or will allow additional money to be added to previously approved construction loans to include the new cost.

The permit fees were included in the Beaufort County School District’s budget to help pay for construction and renovation costs.

Experts say this could create nearly $ 89 million for schools over the next decade.

Builders say that while they support all schools, students, and teachers, fees and taxes are already between 17% and 25% of a home’s cost for buyers, depending on where you are in the area. Lowcountry.

This extra money means that anyone, whether it’s a $ 250,000 construction or $ 2 million, has to pay the same price.

“Bluffton, Hilton Head, Hardeeville, Hilton Head, Beaufort,” says James. “Building is crazy, everyone is busy. But we still need homes for our workers here. I think $ 10,000 is going to cost a lot of people a lot of money to build a house. “

Bluffton, Hardeeville and Hilton Head have yet to agree to sign the fees through intergovernmental agreements.

The Town of Bluffton is working on its own deal, which would prorate the fees based on the cost of the house or building. James says this is something the association is in favor of.

“They asked them to put some kind of proportionality in focusing specifically on affordable housing,” James said. “They would only pay a certain percentage of the fees and not 100%.”

In addition, the homebuilders association would like a new study to be carried out on the school system, students and their impact on the community.

The Beaufort County School District previously said their enrollments were down, but they still added $ 20 million to the 2021 budget.

“I think they should do the study again, who moved here, who do we serve?” Said Jacques. “Do we still have the same need as the original study presented? “

“It needs to be redone to show us who moved to the area, what the school-aged children are and what size schools are we building.”

The association has told its members to pay the fees – but to do so in a check separate from any other county taxes or fees they have to pay.

Additionally, it asks its members in a note sent last week to include this statement:

“Beaufort County School District Impact Fees are paid subject to, reserving all rights to seek reimbursement of all or part of such payment, and on condition that if the Impact Fee Ordinance County of Beaufort is passed on Monday, June 28, 2021 or another authority for any part of these impact fees is invalidated or changed thereafter, a proportional refund will be issued by the County of Beaufort.

James says the association is exploring all options, including legal action.

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