By Paul Gable
An old issue has again surfaced as Horry County Council is reportedly looking at ways to change the state impact fee law to help pay for the costs of development.
Twelve to twenty or so years ago this was a recurring issue council routinely discussed until it became apparent nothing would change in Columbia.
That discussion was interrupted by the collapse of the mortgage market and resulting depression which began in 2008 and which, now, the housing market appears to be finally recovering from.
The current impact fee law was effectively written to ensure impact fees would not be levied in Horry County. A primary sponsor on that piece of legislation was Horry County’s own Sen. Luke Rankin.
The builders, real estate agents and their attorneys do not want impact fees in Horry County and their lobby in Columbia has been strong enough, to date, to stop them.
New construction creates increased costs to provide local government infrastructure and services. Impact fees theoretically have those costs initially paid for by the new residents. Without impact fees, those costs are spread among all residents throughout the county.
Further limiting the ability of local government to meet the costs of providing new, as well as maintaining existing, infrastructure and services is the infamous Act 388 of 2006, which was vigorously supported by our county legislative delegation.
Much of the blame for any shortage of police officers, fire and emergency services, roads and other infrastructure lies directly at the feet of those we have been sending to Columbia over the years.
However, by looking to effect changes in the impact fee law, Horry County Council is also being shortsighted.
In approximately one year’s time, Horry County will be collecting around $38 million in undesignated revenue from the county’s hospitality tax. This money was designated to pay Ride I bonds and to pay back the State Infrastructure Bank for loans to build, primarily, SC 22. Those payments will end sometime around the end of 2018.
Horry County Council has already passed an ordinance extending collection of the hospitality tax beyond those obligations while saying it would determine where to spend those funds in the future.
Indications are some in council want to use those funds to help pay for construction of I-73. Horry County already built much of I-73 within the county. It is called SC 22. With some minor upgrades and a short extension to that existing road, SC 22 will meet interstate standards for I-73 within Horry County.
County council and our state legislative delegation should not look to the taxpayers of Horry County to fund I-73 beyond what the county has already done and those minor upgrades. Let the state and federal governments live up to their responsibilities to fund interstate highways if I-73 is such a needed project.
Additionally, I believe a considerable portion of those funds can be used to improve police, fire and emergency services and infrastructure needs within the county as the state hospitality tax law is currently written.
Creative use of existing revenue to meet current needs should be the goal of this council.