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Hall may halt collection of impact fees
Builders need a jump-start as economy turns positive
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Hall County may stop collecting impact fees through 2012 to help builders get back on their feet.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners considered the idea Thursday night and decided to investigate the numbers before making a final decision at its April 28 meeting.

Commissioner Craig Lutz asked Carl Williams, president of the Home Builders Association of Gainesville-Hall County, to explain the idea.

"We've been dealing with some difficult times in the building industry, and that's not only builders but subcontractors, suppliers and the local economy," Williams said. "Because of this, we are finding ways to cut back on our costs; suppliers have done what they can to lower costs; and subcontractors are working hard for less money and more hours."

As the economy starts to take a slow turn for the positive, builders could use a jump-start, he said.

"We're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and we're optimistic about the future," he said. "But all of the foreclosures are lowering the value of homes, which makes it difficult to compete in today's market."

Lutz suggested the commissioners halt impact fees from May 1 through December 2012. Chairman Tom Oliver asked to table the decision until the board could hear details at their next work session.

"I'm not saying that anyone is against it," Oliver said. "We just need to have an overall view to see where we are with that."

Impact fees, which developers pay toward infrastructure improvements, were once all the rage among county and city governments.

Gainesville and Hall County have them. Flowery Branch considered them late last year before deciding the timing during a down economy wasn't right.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs, who spoke with builders in North Hall this week, said he also wanted to bring up the idea.

"I'd love to do anything to spur construction," he said. "It would bring in tax revenue and help the tax digest."

Commissioner Ashley Bell spoke in favor of the change, noting Forsyth and Dawson counties have suspended impact fees.

"We should have stopped it a while back, but no one ever thought the recession would last this long," Bell said. "Neighboring counties have stopped collecting the fees, and we need to catch up."

Lutz also said commissioners should contact Gainesville officials about lowering meter fees and tap fees associated with construction. Bell agreed to meet with council members about the idea.

"Another principal driver to new home construction are those fees, which are administered by the city of Gainesville," Lutz said. "We have no direct control over those, but we can send a letter to the city and ask them to consider reducing the fees as long as our moratorium on impact fees is in place."


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