‘Strongly opposed:’ Homebuilders association opposes Maury County’s pursuit of impact fees – Columbia Daily Herald

As Maury County’s state representatives advocate for legislation aimed at implementing a building impact fee to combat unprecedented growth, the Tennessee Home Builder’s Association is opposing the effort, stating unforeseen consequences.

A bill introduced on behalf of the county by Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, would create an opportunity for Maury County to be exempt from the state County Powers Relief Act that prohibits counties from enacting an impact fee on development, or a local real estate transfer tax by a private or public act.

Maury County’s elected commissioners are pushing for the bill in response to the state’s “county school facilities tax” on residential development, emphasizing that the rate determined by the state is too low to meet the needs of the growing community. In its current form, the tax may be levied at a rate not to exceed $1 per square foot. However, state and county leaders are calling for the rate to be increased to $3 to properly address the cost of growth.

If the commission’s request is passed by the state legislature, the increase would generate about $14 million in additional county funding, annually, as more than 16,000 homes are planned to be built in the coming years.

As drafted, House Bill 1675/ Senate Bill 1840, would give the county commission total control of what it would charge for the impact fee. Leaders believe the bill would postpone the need to implement an increase in property taxes.

Charles Schneider, the CEO of the Nashville-based Home Builders Association of Tennessee, told The Daily Herald, that the effort would have unforeseen consequences for the local government and the county’s residents.

“We are strongly opposed to this bill,” Schneider said. “At the end of the day that is going to impact homes and families. That will go into the construction cost of the house. That cost is carried on to the home buyer. Those impact fees, make homes more expensive. You are hurting more working-class people.”

The proposed legislation will go before the Tennessee House Property & Planning Subcommittee on Tuesday.

“It is about the state giving us the ability to control what we need to control,” said Scott Sumners, the Maury County commissioner who is leading the effort.

Sumners, alongside Commissioner Brian  McKelvey, recently expressed concern that the bill will not see approval from lawmakers, many of whom in the committee that will review the bill have ties to enterprises in the home building and construction business.

To appeal to lobbyists and the state legislators that will review the bill, Cepicky said he has revised the bill to only include Maury County in the request.

To be able to enact the Private Act to increase the fee, counties must not have another adequate facility tax in place.

Once adopted, the rate of the tax cannot be increased for 4 years. Once the 4 year period has run, the county legislative body may increase the rate, but by no more than 10%. After any increase, the rate is again frozen for four years. 

The act also states the revenue is required by law to be used exclusively for funding growth-related capital expenditures for education, including the retirement of bonded indebtedness.

Williamson County was able to grandfather in three impact fees for the county which is now home to 230,000 residents and 50 school campuses that educate more than 40,000 students.

The county enacted the Private Acts of 1987 Chapter 120, which gave Williamson County the authority to collect an impact fee from builders.

The county hired a consultant to do research a year before the educational impact fee was implemented in 2016 to determine the exact amount to charge builders on new construction based on the square footage of a home.

After almost a three-year lawsuit launched by homebuilders against the county, a state appellate court ruled that Williamson County has authority to impose an educational impact fee on the Home Builders Association of Middle Tennessee.

Schneider said the decision made in Williamson County directly led to the boom in construction just to the south in Maury County.

“In general, part of the reason why you are seeing growth in Maury County is because the costs are higher to build in Williamson County,” Schneider said. “Where do people go?”

Summers said that will not be the case.

“These fees on new development are not hurting the growth,” Sumners said. “Williamson County is still one of the fastest-growing communities in the state. It is just not true, and it is not happening. The county commission wants to make sure that the citizens of this county don’t have to pay for growth. There is just no way that the county can afford new school buildings without having to raise property taxes.”

Schneider said he encourages the county to consider transitioning to a state adequate facilities tax.

Adequate facilities taxes, also known as development taxes or construction taxes, are privilege taxes on the development industry that are intended to raise revenue for general government purposes. Revenue raised is deposited into the general fund. Impact fees are one-time user fees on new development.

Sumners said that the bill clearly states that all funds collected will be used to fund new public schools in the county.

“If you read the intent of our bill it is for school debt,” Sumners said.

He said the bill intends to mend the state regulation to allow the county to appropriately fund infrastructure needs to facilitate the community’s growth.

“It allows us for the growth to pay for itself. I don’t have a whole lot of time left on the commission, and it is important to me that growth pays for itself and the property owners who are affected by us having to build new schools,” Sumners said.

“It should be the folks that are moving here bearing the brunt of the cost. The county cannot control what the municipalities are doing, we cannot stop annexations we can’t put a moratorium on buildings. We don’t have to authority to stop some of the issues we are facing with the growth.”

Reach Mike Christen at mchristen@c-dh.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram at @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.