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County, developer to work on recreation use
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Effingham County commissioners are weighing a proposal from a developer to waive an impact fee in exchange for access to recreation areas in a planned subdivision.

Jerry Konter and Benji Miles have asked the commissioners to reduce the recreation impact fees at their Belmont Glen community because of the recreation facilities they plan to build. The amenities planned for the subdivision will cost about $1.8 million, according to Miles.

Assistant County Attorney Eric Gotwalt said a developer can receive credit on a recreation impact fee only for improvements to the county’s facilities. Gotwalt said that’s part of the state law that Effingham’s recreation impact fee ordinance mirrors.

Miles said they would dedicate the fields to the homeowners association.

“It’s not something we are going to maintain control over,” he said. “It will relieve the situation of the Effingham County Recreation and Parks. There is a huge benefit to Effingham County to have something like that. If Effingham County grows at the rate everyone expects it to, there’s no way impact fees or construction is going to allow the rec department to keep up with demand.”

Said Konter: “The cost of the ballfields alone exceeds the impact fee.”

According to Assistant County Administrator David Crawley, the cost of the fields would be approximately $491,000. The total recreation impact fee generated by Belmont Glen is expected to be around $194,000 at $320 per house.

Konter said previous county staff volunteered to him that if the builders put in extensive amenities, the recreation impact fee would be waived.

That assertion immediately raised questions from the commissioners.

“Somebody gave you something only this board can give you?”  Phillips asked.

“As it stands right here, this particular activity does not apply to the credit.”

Miles and Konter offered to open their recreational facilities at set hours for recreation department use. Crawley said he didn’t know how to handle an issue where a developer is willing to allow public use of private amenities.

“We have so few subdivisions that have anything, that’s one reason why we put the impact fees in place,” he said.

Belmont Glen also will have a pool, but it won’t be big enough to allow for public use, Miles said.

“We not doing something just to get our money back,” Miles said.

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Myra Lewis dissenting, to have the county staff and the rec department to discuss recreational facility plans and how Belmont Glen can figure into them.

“I think it’s great you’re trying to build a beautiful new facility. How we do that, as far as credits, I don’t know,” Phillips said.

Lewis, though, didn’t like the idea of waiving part or all of the impact fees.

“I feel we’d be opening a can of worms,” she said.