I know I've been AWOL for a while on this issue. (Too many things going on, as usual.) But we have yet another county that's starting to take a look at impact fees as a way of covering the spiraling costs of keeping educational construction up to speed with growth. This time, it's Granville county, which sits just north of Durham and Wake counties, home to Creedmoor, Butner, and Oxford, among other small communities. Sprawl, coming largely out of Durham County but also to a degree out of Wake, is putting pressure on their school system, and they're trying to find a way to pay for it.
Folks, I need help on this. I'm not terribly good at organizing -- I've tried, and haven't gotten anywhere. But the problem is that the NC Homebuilders will fight this to their dying breath, and that's more power than any one county has. (Orange and Chatham slipped through school construction impact fees in the '80s, before the Homebuilders had a chance to organize against them.) Or, if one county does muster the power, they might slip that one through, then draw a firewall on the rest. Durham County's legislative delegation tried for 12 years to get permission from the legislature to charge school construction impact fees, and were blocked by the Homebuilders every time. The ONLY way this happens is if there's enough local government and activist pressure on enough legislators that eventually there's too many for the homebuilders to stop.
So far, we've got Durham trying its hardest and failing. The WakeUP Wake County folks are starting to talk impact fees, but haven't gotten the full support of their delegation yet. Johnston (Smithfield and Clayton), just east of Wake, is taking a look too. Now Granville. And these are just counties in the Triangle media area that I can keep up with. I don't know what's going on in the rest of the state. If we can coordinate a multi-county effort that comes from many disparate parts of the state, we can get this thing to critical mass.
It may be that a political compromise becomes necessary down the road. Homebuilders obviously like school construction, but they complain that they don't want to be the only funding source. I say, fine, let's put through school impact fees along with other local option revenue sources, such as a local option gas tax for supporting road construction and public transit. Remember, this isn't imposing a tax directly, it's just giving local governments the option of doing so.
I'm wide open to suggestions here.