Paul Mitchell

Attorney Paul Mitchell speaks to the Hoschton City Council about the town's proposed impact fees.

The Hoschton City Council postponed taking action Monday night on proposed impact fees in the town.

The unexpected delay came following a major pushback from Kolter, the real estate firm developing Cresswinds at Twin Lakes, a massive planned community in the town.

Hoschton had been aggressively pursuing adopting impact fees for the past few months. Money from the impact fees would be used to build infrastructure for recreation, fire and police services.

But during the town's second public hearing on the fees held Aug. 31, a half-dozen Kolter representatives attended the council's meeting. Attorney Paul Mitchell from the law firm of Miles, Hansford & Tallant in Cumming, spoke to the council for the group and urged that a final decision be delayed.

"Put the cart behind the horse and give this a little more time so there can be a more thoughtful product, so there can be more public discussion and input," Mitchell said.

He also said Hoschton had rushed the impact fee process.

"This is typically a 12-18 month process," he said. "This has been rushed through in 90 days. We need more time."

During his brief remarks, Mitchell said Kolter had a study done of Hoschton's proposed impact fees and that they didn't meet the state's "proportionally rule." That rule says impact fees have to be in proportion to the impact of a development on a community.

Mitchell also said the impact fees was the first step by the town to "increase the taxes on the people in the city of Hoschton."

"At least one of those (fees), namely the police department which you want to start, will require a tax and we don't even know what that is," he said.

Following Mitchell's remarks, the council ended the public hearing and went into a closed session with its attorney to discuss the issue. When the council came out a few minutes later, member Tracy Carswell invoked a provision to delay a vote on the fees until the council's Sept. 21 meeting.

BACKGROUND

According to city planning director Jerry Weitz, the proposed impact fees would add about $2,900 to the cost of a new home in Hoschton. Around $1,079 of that would go toward parks and recreation facilities; $940 toward fire protection; and $791 toward building a facility for a police department.

The police department issue has been the most controversial aspect of the fees. Hoschton disbanded its police department in 2010 during a financial crisis.

But in recent months, the council has been pondering the idea of restarting a police department, in part because of the growth the Kolter project is bringing to the community.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office now covers the town's law enforcement needs.

Paying for a police department's ongoing expenses has been a central issue in the impact fee discussion. The fees can only be used to pay for building a police facility, not ongoing expenses. Those ongoing expenses could force the town to implement a city property tax, something that has been met with resistance in the past.

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