The Hoschton City Council will likely soon face a lawsuit from its biggest developer over its Sept. 21 decision to impose impact fees on new residential construction.
Attorney Paul Mitchell, who represents Kolter Acquisitions, the developer of a huge 1,400-acre planned community in the town, said Sept. 22 that a lawsuit would be forthcoming.
"Even though we sent the City four reports from one of the nation’s preeminent impact fee experts showing that the impact fees were illegal and unnecessary, the City’s actions have left us no alternative but to challenge the impact fee ordinance in court," Mitchell said.
Kolter had been pushing back against efforts by the city to impose impact fees since the issue first came up in June.
After a brief delay, the city council voted 3-2 on Sept. 21 to proceed with imposing impact fees on new construction in the town despite those objections.
Mayor Shannon Sell broke a tie vote on the issue, agreeing to move forward with city impact fees. Council members Shantwon Astin and Adam Ledbetter voted to approve the fees while James Lawson and Tracy Carswell voted against the plan. The council had earlier in the month delayed a vote on the matter.
The vote came after the council went into an executive session to discuss "litigation."
"Unfortunately, Mayor Shannon Sell and councilmembers Shantwon Astin and Adam Ledbetter voted to impose illegal impact fees that will ultimately lead to property taxes on all of the City’s residents," Mitchell said.
The fees will add nearly $3,000 to the cost of a new home in Hoschton. Money raised from the fees will be used for infrastructure projects for fire, police and recreation.
The council fast-tracked the process to impose the fees in a bid to have it in place to capture as many new homes as possible as Kolter began gearing up home sales. The massive Twin Lakes development is a high-end residential project that will add around 2,600 new homes to Hoschton in the coming decade.
The creation of impact fees usually takes 12-18 months, but Hoschton did their process in just three months. For a short time, the town imposed a three-month building moratorium on new residential construction in an effort to get a many impact fees as possible. But the council soon backtracked on the moratorium, lifting it after just a month.
KOLTER PUSHES BACK
Lawyers and executives from Kolter have been attending council meetings since the idea was proposed in June. A court stenographer has been taking notes for Kolter's law firm at recent council meetings and the council has held several closed executive sessions to discuss litigation apparently related to the impact fee controversy.
During the town's second public hearing about the fees held Aug. 31, Mitchell urged that a decision on the impact fees 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.
During his 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.
Kolter annexed 1,464 acres along Hwy. 53 and Peachtree Rd. into Hoschton in November 2018 for the project. About half of the homes planned will be in a gated, age-restricted community while the remainder will be in a traditional family subdivision. Commercial space is also outlined in Kolter's plans.
Earlier this year, Kolter began to market and sell homes in its development. It has sold around 100 homes so far, officials say.
Kolter representatives said the move by Hoschton to impose impact fees and the imposition of a building moratorium were unexpected and weren't part of the original discussions with the town during the annexation and approval process.