(The Center Square) — A recent analysis of impact fees across Georgia found “large differences” in how jurisdictions approach implementing impact fees.
But the clear theme of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation review is a lack of transparency.
“There had never been a one-stop compilation of each jurisdiction’s impact fees,” Chris Denson, GPPF’s director of policy and research, told The Center Square. “And so, that was the single motivation when we set out.
“Of course, we wanted to see also what kind of revenues were derived from impact fees across the state,” Denson added. “And transparency for that type of information was hit or miss.”
According to the group’s analysis, Cherokee County implemented the state’s first countywide impact fees in 2000. Today, the county collects the most revenue from impact fees of any jurisdiction in Georgia, and GPPF found that the county has increased its fees by 83% over two years.
Impact fees are a hot-button topic amid rising housing prices in metro Atlanta and statewide. “In a climate of increasingly unaffordable housing costs, it is fair to ask whether these new costs toward building new housing make sense,” GPPF said in its conclusion.
Local governments charge impact fees on new development, saying the charges are necessary to offset the costs of related infrastructure, whether it’s parks or roads.
“Unfortunately, we just didn’t find the transparency to be really what we were hoping for,” Denson said. “I can point you to a couple of jurisdictions that are good, that have a narrowly defined impact fee in terms of the revenues they pull in and what they spend towards, according to their accounting files, but those jurisdictions are the exception, not the rule.”
When asked about the takeaway of the study, Denson said there is an opportunity for governments to provide their constituents with more details about their programs.
“I think the first would be greater transparency — just so we can see how the revenues are being used,” Denson said. “I think that would go a long way towards helping out with community buy-in towards either growing or assessing these impact fees.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor