BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – A recent ruling from a judge gives leaders here a “green light” to keep enforcing a new fee for builders as well as an interim ordinance that calls for changes in home designs and materials used. That’s according to Bryan County Commission Chair Carter Infinger. First, he says there is a $3,000 Impact Fee designed for transportation needs associated with growth, particularly roads.
“If builders are going to come to our community and build houses I think they need to have some skin in the game. I think they need to help pay for some of the infrastructures that we wouldn’t need if not for the home construction,” said Infinger.
The Impact Fee and what’s known as the “Interim Development Ordinance (IDO) were passed in January with effective dates of April. However, in February the Home Builders Association of Greater Savannah filed suit and sought preliminary injunctions to prevent both from taking effect. The argument is that the County overstepped its authority in terms of some aspects of the IDO and that the changes in the IDO coupled with the Impact fee will greatly add to the price of a home. Bill Glass, an attorney for the Home Builders of Greater Savannah says they estimate the additional cost could be “as much as $20,000.”
While the builders’ group has tried to prevent the changes, a judge recently ruled against the Home Builders of Greater Savannah on both the fee and the interim ordinance.
Infinger says that means they will keep collecting the Impact fee and move forward with enforcing the ordinance changes. He says many are designed to provide more safe housing especially in terms of storms and hurricanes. “So, we want to maintain for our citizens a safe environment and other communities do it and so again we’re not doing anything that other communities aren’t doing,” he said.
Glass however offered a very different perspective saying the IDO oversteps on a lot of things that have nothing to do with health and safety but rather aesthetics. “When they go far beyond that (health and safety) then they are into the rights of private property and private citizens,” said Glass. “The Government shouldn’t be in the business of telling you what design your house should be or how many roof plains it should be or how your garage should be set back. That’s for builders and for buyers to decide.”
Glass also offered the perspective that other than the injunctions, the judge had sided with his clients in terms of their arguments regarding the ordinance and the authority of Bryan County to implement it as is. He indicated the disagreement may not be over.
“I think right now we’re probably going to appeal,” said Glass. “We’re probably going to keep the pedal to the metal on all of these issues.”
Glass said, “we’re not interested in fighting any more than we have to but I think Bryan County and its citizens would agree these are beautiful houses families that are regular people in Bryan County can afford.”
Infinger disputed some of Glass’s assertions, particularly the issue of home prices increasing up to $20,000. “I did the match on the $3,000 fee on a 30-year mortgage. It’s about $14 a month,” he said
Infinger says the $20,000 figure (in terms of the fee and ordinance changes) was not proven by the Association in court. “The judge said their argument was invalid, they did not prove their argument to be valid at all,” said Infinger.
Infinger said Bryan County gave builders four months from the time the changes were passed to get ready for the higher costs and the changes in designs, etc.
He says the ruling gives him confidence the County is within its rights and that the fees will continue to be collected. “We’re going forward doing that, ” said Infinger. “Now if they want to argue and fight and take us to court, so be it.”