Kolter has filed a lawsuit against the City of Hoschton and its officials in a bid to halt the town's recent vote to implement impact fees.
Kolter, the developer of a 2,600-home project in the town known as Twin Lakes, filed its suit Oct. 2 in the Superior Court of Jackson County.
The suit seeks an injunction to stop the city from collecting around $2,900 in impact fees on new homes in the city. The impact fee system was created over the summer in an effort to collect funds from the Kolter project.
The lawsuit says that Hoschton has "been engaged in an ongoing crusade to extract as much money out of Plaintiffs as possible..."
In the suit, Kolter said it had to threaten litigation against the town over the summer to have the city council lift an unexpected building moratorium.
"This action is brought by Plaintiffs in order to stop Defendants from enforcing the City of Hoschton's recently adopted Impact Fee Ordinance against Plaintiffs because the ordinance is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void," says the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says that Kolter has invested millions of dollars in its massive residential project, including providing funds to upgrade Hoschton's water and sewerage infrastructure, and was blindsided by the city's move to put impact fees on the development.
"These expenditures and contracts (with builders) were made and entered into based upon detailed development budgets that, understandably, did not account for an additional expense of millions of dollars in impact fees that Plaintiffs had no reason to anticipate before incurring development costs and contractual obligations," the lawsuit says.
Kolter argues in the suit that its development will pay for the increased cost of city services without impact fees being put into place. While the city does not currently levy a property tax, it does collect a share of county sales tax income.
In the suit, Kolter also said that the city had not lived up to its side of a contract to develop water and sewerage infrastructure for the development and that existing water pressure in the development is very low. It says the city was notified in April that it was in breach of its contract with Kolter over water and sewerage development.
Among other things, the suit alleges that Hoschton:
• rushed the impact fee process "without any meaningful input from either the public or members of the development community."
• had published conflicting legal notice advertising about the dates and times for public hearings.
• had created an illegal advisory committee for the impact fees that didn't conform to state law.
• held a public hearing on Aug. 10 for the impact fees, but left that off the city's published agenda until the time of the meeting.
• failed to publish legal advertising for the town's second public hearing about impact fees.
• failed to distinguish the impact fees for various kinds of residential developments, i.e. single-family, townhomes, apartments, age-restricted, etc. The suit points out that the city did distinguish between various kinds of commercial projects in its impact fee ordinance, but failed to do so in its residential fees.
• created impact fees for a non-existent police department. The suit included a recent Facebook statement by Hoschton Mayor Shannon Sell that says the city has not decided to defiantly create a police department. (The city has since deleted its Facebook page.)
• failed to consider that residents in the Kolter project would be paying property taxes to the West Jackson Fire District for fire protection and that the city itself does not have a fire department.