Lawsuit filed against Bryan County over new home building fees

Home Builders file lawsuit against Bryan County

BRYAN COUNTY, GA (WTOC) - The Home Builders Association of Greater Savannah is filing a lawsuit against Bryan County.

The suit alleges that the county is overstepping by requiring impact fees for new residents looking to build homes in the unincorporated south end of the county.

The association says they weren’t included in the talks surrounding the fee for new home construction. They argue the fee will hurt new home-buyers. The county says that’s not the case.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday. It all stems from two recently-passed ordinances in Bryan County that the HBA says goes way beyond government’s powers by restricting private property rights and making new homes unaffordable for certain buyers.

The buyers the HBA referenced in their statement are first responders, teachers, and military personnel and other moderate income buyers in Bryan County. The ordinances are an interim development ordinance that’s currently in effect. That measure created new design standards for new construction homes. The second measure is an impact fee program that goes into effect on April 1, and will add a little more than $3,000 to the price of a new construction home. The county says that money will go toward traffic and road improvements.

"Both of these initiatives were undertaken in a very transparent method that is consistent with state law and are commonly used by growing communities such as ours in the state of Georgia, said Bryan County Commission Chairman, Carter Infinger. "It is evident that our efforts are in the best interest of current and future Bryan County residents in the context of providing the vital services that accompany a growth in population.”

An attorney representing the HBA spoke outside the association’s Savannah office Thursday afternoon to set the record straight about the motivations behind the suit.

“People can say it’s about builders and their profits. That’s not true. Builders are going to build. They’re going to build wherever there’s a market. If there’s no market in Bryan County, they won’t build in Bryan County," said Attorney, Bill G. Glass.

Glass said the question is, will people who live and work in Bryan County be able to afford buying a new home when both ordinances are in effect? The impact fee program is meant to generate money for roads and traffic improvements. It’s the interim development ordinance that requires builders to adhere to new building standards that Glass believes will hit potential homeowners even harder.

“The $3,100 is just the impact fee. The effect that the artificial design standards have on cost, is much more impactful when you’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars," Glass said.

Infinger called HBA’s decision to file suit unfortunate, adding they got input from a large number of Bryan County residents in the decision making process.

Commission believes the ordinances will strengthen development codes and reduce the property tax burden on current residents that can come from providing a sound road network necessary to accommodate the growth the county is experiencing.

We spoke with a local realtor to get his thoughts on the impact on the market.

“This impact fee is not for today. This impact fee is for down the road, and we can look back on our county and our city and say, 'hey, we didn’t just allow anything to happen here. We took into account the growth, the traffic patterns, and making sure we have ample transportation through the area,” said realtor, Randy Bocook. “I just think that, yes, it’s a little bit of a shock, but I think that we’ll recover from it, and Richmond Hill has some of the best schools in the state, so people will still live here.”

The suit aims to immediately stop the county from enforcing or implementing both ordinances against Home builders and buyers, as well as demanding a repeal of the ordinances altogether - claiming they’re unconstitutional.

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