The impact of impact fees: The first year in review

Aerial view of Easley, SC

In July of 2021, the city of Easley officially adopted the impact fee ordinance (Ordinance 2021-13). These are impact fees imposed on new development within the city beginning in January of 2022. For the first year, 2022, the city imposed only 50% of the fee. This year, it will go up to 75%, and the full amount will be charged starting January 2024.

So far the city collected over $1.14 million. These funds must be used in 4 areas: Police, Fire, Recreation, and Transportation. They are non slip evenly between four buckets however; the ratios are different for the use of different departments. These are the latest figures we obtained from the city administrator:

Fire Department: $231,899.46

Parks and Recreation: $569,610.92

Police Department: $148,308.91

Transportation: $186,526.70

The city doesn’t have to start spending the funds until the ordinance has been in effect for three (3) years, so they are looking very closely at their anticipated goals in the next little while.  The funds cannot be used for recurring expenses such as salaries, so they will be looking for ways to improve the capacity of the city’s first response teams, the roads, parks, recreational and training facilities.

When asked for specific projects they are considering, the city they not want to be too specific at this point for several reasons.  If they share too soon, the price of land may be affected, or another need might show up that is even more pressing. We should be hearing more about those plans over the next couple years however.

I asked Ward 3 City Councilwoman Pat Webb how she feels about the new development impact fee:

“I am generally very pleased with the Development Impact Fee Program.  As you can see by the numbers, new development has contributed aver $1,000,000 in revenue to go toward improving our Police Department, our Fire Department, our Parks and Recreation Department and to provide for traffic improvements.  And, all of these funds were accrued while we were imposing 50% of the fee for the first year.  The fee will increase to 75% of its value this year, so we hope the revenue will continue to increase.”

And when asked for some insight about the money can or should be spent, here was her response:

“We have not set our final goals for these funds at this point, but we have general ideas for their use. Please bear in mind that these funds cannot cover ALL the cost associated with the improvements.  If we have to staff these new facilities and keep them running, the city has to come up with the funds to complete the projects, staff and maintain these facilities.

In general, we have talked about the need for a Police Training Facility, and I think that is a truly needed thing.  Or, we might be faced with the need to construct a satellite police station remote from the downtown location in order to cut down on response times.

Again, in general, we recognize that another Fire Station may be required (also to reduce our response times).  We also recognize that we will need new firemen, and fire fighting apparatus to go along with that new station.  While we have a general idea of where coverage needs to be improved, a lot of thought will have to be put into just where we look for a site.

For the Parks and Recreation Department, we will have to talk with the citizens as to whether they want to see a new park constructed or improvements or extensions to our existing facilities.  Again, we have some general ideas, but more discussion is needed.

The transportation component of this fund may help to address intersection improvements or other issues. As I understand the use of the funds, we will not be allowed to pave any existing streets in the City with these funds.  However, if we feel that we can work with the SCDOT by identifying roads or intersections in their system that need improvement, we can pay for Consultant Engineering firms to perform the required Traffic Studies to outline the best improvements for the money.  At this time, not specific intersections have been identified.  With these studies in hand, I further hope that we might be able to move up in the order of the improvements the State of South Carolina might be able to make.

We will be actively looking for the best way to make these funds go the farthest, and do the most good for the City.  That is our challenge!” 

Pat Webb, Easley City Council Ward 3