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Decatur city staff ready to present draft impact fee ordinance to the city commission

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Decatur city staff ready to present draft impact fee ordinance to the city commission

The Decatur City Commission, at its Nov. 15 meeting, approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Decatur Housing Authority to develop and manage the South Housing Village at Legacy Park. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — Decatur city staff are at a point where they have a draft impact fee ordinance and could present it to the City Commission for a work session in the near future.

Decatur has been considering the use of impact fees for the past several years and formed an advisory committee last October to explore how they might be applied in Decatur.

Impact fees are used to offset the costs of providing public services to a development.

The Decatur City Commission held a public hearing in July 2021 and voted to submit the capital improvements element of the development impact fee study to the Atlanta Regional Commission for review by the ARC and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The purpose of the review is to make sure the city is in compliance with the Georgia Development Impact Fee Act.

Decatur has finished that review and its public engagement process, and now city staff are ready to move forward, John Maximuk, director of design, environment and construction for the city of Decatur, said at the Feb. 7 City Commission meeting.

“We’re kind of at that stage where we have all the facts on the table, and it’s a good chance to make a decision,” Maximuk said.

Impact fees are used to offset the increased cost to a city or county for providing additional infrastructure and services to new residents or businesses.

“It’s a one-time fee charged to development in order to pay for additional services or expanded public facilities that the new development will bring,” Maximuk said. “A development impact fee is a payment of money as a condition of development approval to pay for a proportionate share of the cost of system improvements needed to serve new growth.”

The proportionate share of the cost of system improvements, means that the money collected from impact fees can only go toward certain spending areas.

Georgia law strictly regulates which cities can implement impact fees, how high the fees can be and what they can be implemented for, Maximuk previously said.

Decatur is considering using impact fees in two main areas — public safety and parks, recreation and open space. For example, if the city gained 5,000 new residents and needed a new fire truck to expand the fire department’s capacity, the revenue from the impact fees could be used to purchase the fire truck. However, that money could not be used to hire more firefighters and pay for their salaries.

Impact fees can also only be charged for new developments. An impact fee could be charged for a development like the Modera Decatur apartments, which is replacing a bank. It is a new type of development on that property. Impact fees can also be charged if a developer decides to build on an undeveloped lot.

If a property owner tears down a single-family house and replaces it with another single-family house, an impact fee would not be charged because the use of the land stays the same.

The city could also decide to reduce or exclude fees for developments, such as affordable housing.

As the city commission moves forward with adopting the impact fee ordinance, it will eventually hold two public hearings before voting on the ordinance.

Writer Cathi Harris contributed to this story. 

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