Liberty County commissioners have approved a set of fees that are designed to have developers help defray road improvement costs east of I-95.
County Administrator Joey Brown and county engineer Trent Long met a few weeks ago with potential developers to discuss the pending fee.
“I think they understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Long said.
In putting together the fee structure, Long said they looked at the present master plans for such areas as the Foram Group holdings. There also were master plans for much of what is planned to come around the existing industrial park, Tradeport East, and master plans from the Liberty County Development Authority for what is planned inside the park.
Long said they developed a best-case scenario for what is to be developed in the defined development area east of I-95.
“So as development does come, there is a funding mechanism that helps pay for those improvements,” Long said.
“We wanted to ensure there was a mechanism to help us to fund the road improvements,” said Chairman Donald Lovette. “We did not want to put all that burden on the citizens.”
Fees are based on expected number of trips and on the land use codes under consideration. A manufacturing project, with 188 employees, would pay about $134,000 in developer impact fees. A 1 million square foot warehouse, and its resulting traffic, would have a tab of $490,000 and something such as an Amazon hub could expect to pay a total of $1.3 million.
The fee would be a onetime assessment and paid perhaps at the time the land is rezoned. Brown said commissioners can dictate in the developer agreements when the money is paid, such as to make bond payments to repay a bond schedule.
Long said the fee structure has built into it the percentage of trucks for a project, and what those heavy trucks do to a road.
“It’s all about the traffic that you generate,” he said. “What we have to do is use a standard that gives us a legal ability to stand on. We can make the best prediction we can based on the information we have at the time you need to charge the fee.”
Commissioners welcomed the development fee proposal.
“I think it is a real good plan,” Commissioner Eddie Walden said “We definitely need something in place,” added Commissioner Justin Frasier.
Developers also could present traffic volume data on their behalf.
“Every project stands on its own,” Brown said. “Each has its own merits and each has to be weighed separately.”
With what is expected to be built in the next few years, Long said the cost of road improvements could reach $25 million.
Long added a project that is not on the fee schedule could come along. In that case, the county will look at the traffic generated and the developer also could use its own traffic studies.
Bryan County imposes a similar fee, Long told commissioners.
“For most items, we are less expensive,” he said. “For a few, we are more expensive.”
Long said he spoke with the Bulloch County engineer and Statesboro’s city engineer, who are looking at what to do to help pay for road improvements. Long said they have three interstate exits to contemplate, while this agreement only pertains to the development zone off exit 76.
The county also will pay for a share of the road improvements, and Brown said there are funds earmarked in transportation local sales option tax 6 to help carry part of those development costs of the plans “This is a mechanism that helps us get to where we get need to go,” Lovette said. “It is fluid. It is a start. And the developers are waiting on us.”