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Developers upset over county's impact fees
Claims county promised to lock in fees for water, sewer for significant development
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A developer is at odds with the Effingham County commissioners over what he thought was a deal to set impact fees.

Steve Konter, who along with Beth Williams is developing Belmont Green, said his major concern was  the water and sewer fees.

Konter objected to the new water and sewer impact fees imposed by the county. He told commissioners he had a letter from a previous county administrator that said the fees would be limited to $4,500, and he had meetings with commissioners and county staff about it.

“We were assured we would be able to receive the designation of a community of significant importance,” he said.

Commissioners said that while such discussions took place, no agreement was ever finalized.

“Nobody said we could do it,” Chairwoman Verna Phillips said. “We said we would look at it.”

Assistant County Attorney Eric Gotwalt said the board looked at such a policy in January 2006, based on a developer’s recommendation.

“The resolution did not promise the board would adopt the policy,” he said. “No developer has received an impact fee lock in. Every developer has been treated the same.”

The county revised its water and sewer impact fees to address reuse water and how to pay for getting rid of it. The state Environmental Protection Division also handed down new mandates since the original talks with Konter.

“The EPD said, in this time, we can’t put a drop of reuse back into the Savannah River,” Commissioner Reggie Loper said.

Konter said the water and sewer fee agreement had been reviewed for his development, but never approved as he had anticipated it would.

“It is our position we acted in good faith,” he said. “It wasn’t, ‘we will look at it.’ It was, ‘this will get accomplished.’”

Konter said land purchases and development designs were made based on the water and sewer fees he thought he had agreed to pay.

“There was a very clear direction the county was going to do this,” he said.

Earlier this year, county commissioners approved a new schedule for impact fees, with a charge of $2,600 per new house for sewer and a total of $6,100 in impact fees for new houses. Of that $6,100, $2,000 goes toward water.

Belmont Glen, which is being developed in two phases, is projected to have more than 600 homes and 17 acres of commercial property.

“Those rooftops have a major ability for us to produce commercial value,” Konter said.