"Frankly, growth must pay for itself," said Karen Rindge of WakeUP Wake County, a community group concerned about how Wake County communities are paying for and managing growth. "Impact fees are really the most fair way to pay for growth."
Three candidates seeking a Wake County commissioner seat support impact fees, which builders pay on new homes to cover costs associated with growth, and two do not.
"I don't think property-tax payers should pay for the entire cost of our growth," said candidate Rodger Koopman, who thinks the county should pursue them, despite a Blue-Ribbon Committee's recent study that did not recommend the fees.
It is estimated that the fees could mean up to $50 million a year in Wake County, but that would be only a very small percentage of the $18 billion the Blue-Ribbon Committee found is needed to accommodate growth.
"They will not pay for all the growth, but if we don't look at a menu of options -- all the options that the county has," Koopman said. "And we simply expect the homeowners to pay for all of it, I think we create an unbalanced and unfair situation."
But before impact fees could be implemented on a county level, state lawmakers must first approve the measure. Current county commissioners said for that reason, the fees have not been a priority for the current board.
"There's never been anything seriously done about it," said County Commissioner Phil Jeffreys, who is running for re-election.
He said he thinks that impact fees should not even be a campaign focus since the board currently has no control over implementing them.
"It's easy to make something an issue if you can't vote for it," Jeffreys said. "You can say what you want to."
Critics, however, have said that commissioners should lobby the Legislature to get permission so that they will have authority to implement them if they decide to do so.
"It's disappointing to us that they have not gone to the Legislature," Rindge said.
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