Council rejects appeal to waive developer’s fee
by Michelle Babcock
March 29, 2014 04:00 AM | 7581 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODSTOCK — The Woodstock City Council on Monday unanimously denied an Atlanta-based developer’s appeal asking the city to waive nearly $35,000 in impact fees on a residential development.

After some heated discussion between the developer’s legal representative, William Choate, and city council members, the council went into executive session to discuss the issue before returning to deliver a unanimous vote denying the appeal.

Choate said the developer was told the impact fees would not be charged because the property was issued a building permit before the Parks and Recreation Impact Fee was adopted by the council in 2008, and would therefore be “grandfathered” in.

“We spoke with the city,” Choate said. “We had two written commitments.”

Community Development Director Jessica Guinn explained the city code stated projects with an active, valid building permit issued before the impact fee became effective would be grandfathered in, but noted the property’s building permit expired previous to the impact fee adoption, and therefore was not exempt from the fees.

“That building was constructed in 2006, permits were issued in 2006,” Guinn explained. “The permit had expired and was no longer valid at the time the impact fee ordinance was adopted.”

In April 2013, the developer confirmed it wouldn’t have to pay the impact fee, but in reviewing the code and building permits for the property later that year, Guinn said city staff determined the developer would be subject to the fee.

Guinn added a new building permit was issued in November 2013 for the developer to complete the building of 23 multi-family residential units.

Since the building development was completed and last inspected two weeks ago, the developer is awaiting a Certificate of Occupancy, which the city will not issue as long as there are unpaid impact fees.

Choate said the developer significantly improved the property, and now is being “held hostage.”

The developer owes $34,723 for the property, at 260 Chambers St., in required impact fees, which the developer appealed in February. The original appeal submitted for Woodstock Multiuse LLC was denied, and the applicant appealed the decision to the city council later in February.

Choate said the developer bought the property based on the understanding that the impact fees would not be charged.

“We did our due diligence,” Choate said. “We relied upon those commitments, there would not be impact fees, which was confirmed twice.”

Councilman Chris Casdia said “nobody is holding you hostage.”

“I read your email earlier,” Casdia said. “Nobody is holding you hostage. I saw some emails you talked about that were sent a year ago, but I’d ask, if you did your due-diligence with the impact fee ordinance that you would know … the impact fees are what they are.”

Casdia said to characterize the situation as a hostage situation was incorrect.

Choate responded, saying that “when you make a commitment, you live up to. That’s just the way I was raised.”

Casdia said the money owed by the developer doesn’t “just go away,” and if the impact fee is not paid by the developer it will be paid by the taxpayers.

“I can’t support (the appeal),” Casdia said. “There isn’t a ‘waiver’ of the impact fee; somebody else will pay it. Somebody has to pay it.”

City Manager Jeff Moon apologized for any misinformation the developer was given but said the impact fee ordinance is clear.

“When their building permit expired on their building, they lost the grandfather status,” Moon explained. “When they came in and got a permit in November that was a new permit. They also modified the project.”

Moon said the developer was told in April 2013 the impact fee would be waived, but when the developer applied for a new permit later that year in November, discussions about the impact fee resurfaced.

The council unanimously voted to go into executive session to discuss the issue, and returned soon after to vote on the developer’s appeal.

Casdia made a motion to deny the appeal, and Councilman Bob Mueller seconded the motion, with the council voting unanimously to deny the appeal.

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