After Impact Fee Reductions, Horry County Seeks Ways To Fund Stormwater And Transportation Repairs | Myrtle Beach Policy
CONWAY – Impact charges have been a conversation in Horry County for years, and now the conversation is over, sort of.
Residents are concerned about two categories of impact charges – transportation and stormwater – which were removed from the plan approved on July 13.
Mainly because of the high price tag, and in order not to stifle the progress of small business owners, Horry County Council decided to keep just a few categories: parks, public safety, and solid waste.
The opinions that the cost of transportation and stormwater impact hit businesses the most are true, as businesses are priced higher than residences in these categories.
Horry County’s most significant concerns vary from road issues including SC 90, storm water and flood issues, and rapid development as infrastructure cannot keep up.
And that begs the question, if these are major concerns, how does the county plan to fund transportation and stormwater issues?
When approving the 2021-2022 budget, Horry County Council approved a 100% increase in its stormwater charges, increasing it from $ 44.40 to $ 89.40.
County officials, including council chairman Johnny Gardner, who voted against lowering impact charges, said issues such as stormwater or transportation have other sources of revenue such as increased rainwater charges or road finance programs.
Stormwater charges are billed annually to county residents, but the stormwater impact charge would have been a one-time charge for residents buying a new home in the county.
Thus, the use of storm water charges, while beneficial for financing an already understaffed and backward department, places the financial burden on current residents who feel they have already paid their dues – and not on new developments.
Horry County is anything but underpopulated as rapid growth across the county projects the population to reach nearly half a million by 2030.
And as the county continues to grow, The Post and Courier has found that the county has experienced more flood disasters than almost any other county in the state since 1996.
While the current pressure on the stormwater utility is unclear, in 2020, stormwater manager Thomas Roth said the service was over 200 requests overdue. As a result, the council increased stormwater charges then and today to help alleviate backlog and flooding issues.
But April O’Leary, leader of the popular Horry County Rising political group, said the county needed stormwater and impact charges.
O’Leary explained that the Highway 90 community was an island during Hurricane Florence, as flood waters rose and roads were unusable.
In addition to the stormwater impact fee, residents would have liked to see the transportation impact fee.
County leaders plan to use projects like Ride III, a major road building fund that supports projects like the SC 31 extension and Carolina Forest Boulevard widening to continue to maintain the roads.
Council member Johnny Vaught, who voted for a reduction in impact fees, said the county should not be responsible for paying all transportation costs. Instead, the county must pressure state and federal officials for more money.
Recently, US Senator Lindsey Graham requested $ 12 million in federal funding for the Interstate 73 project, with $ 3 million matching from local sources. But on July 8, Graham announced the home game was unnecessary and increased his claim to $ 15 million.
“We have a lot of different ways of funding (transportation),” Vaught said. “If we don’t force the state and the federal government to help us with the funding, they are going to force us to do it again on our own, as usual.”
Vaught said it was not out of the question to impose more impact fees for categories such as transportation or stormwater, but there are now many unknowns.
Talks about federal money for the county are ongoing as President Joe Biden lobbied for an infrastructure package that could lead to South Carolina receiving the money.
Of Biden’s $ 715 billion transportation bill that was passed by the United States House this month, $ 53 million is for eight projects in the state, but none of those projects are in the Horry County.
Board member Cam Crawford echoed Vaught’s comments as he supported the impact fee but wanted to stress his limitations. He added that he would also like the county to get help from state and local authorities.
“The impact fee looks good, but in reality I’m not sure if you are getting what you pay for,” Crawford said.
Crawford stressed that he would like to try the impact fee with the lowest amount approved by the board and then see where the infrastructure needs to go.
If the county wishes to complete projects such as widening Highway 90, Crawford said implementing a local option sales tax would be a step to take.
Horry County currently does not have a local options sales tax, an additional 1% tax collected on top of a sales tax.
The fees are generally not used for development purposes, although they can give residents a break from their property taxes.
But not all board members agree, as Harold Worley has spoken out against lowering impact fees.
“We need to pass these impact charges on to transportation and storm water because they are linked.”
Worley and board members Johnny Gardner and Tyler Servant were the only three opposed to the fee cut in the original amendment. The county will implement impact fees on October 15.
Contact Alex Brizee at 843-637-9881. Follow her on Twitter @alexbrizee.