Raleigh, N.C. — Over the protests of local lawmakers, the state House tentatively voted Monday night to strip away Orange County's decades-old authority to assess impact fees on developers to help pay for new schools.
As she did in committee, Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, argued that it's unfair for Orange County to have the power to assess those fees when most counties do not. She added that county commissioners recently acted to raise the fee on three-bedroom units by more than 500 percent.
She said "a series of other bills that are going to be worked on" will allow all counties to assess impact fees according to a formula, but those bills are not yet ready for consideration.
Nonetheless, she said, Orange County's fee authority should be repealed immediately: "This is such an egregious situation we need to correct it now."
Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, called the 500 percent increase "crazy" but said the situation has already been mitigated. The developer who complained to lawmakers was given a grandfathered fee rate, and county leaders are considering exempting university student housing from the fees in the future since they don't tend to add many students to local schools, he said.
"This bill is unnecessary," Meyer said. "The county commissioners have taken the shot across the bow."
Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, echoed that sentiment.
"Let this process move forward. They’ve made the corrections. We all make mistakes. We all get forgiven for those mistakes," Insko said.
"This would take $5 million out of the school budgets," she added. "This bill doesn’t hurt the county commissioners. It’hurts our children. We don’t need to be hurting our children."
House Bill 406 passed its first of two House votes, 79-35, with some Democrats joining many Republicans in support. It requires a final House vote Tuesday before moving to the state Senate.