In August 2007 the General Assembly gave NC counties the ability to impose (with voter approval) a 0.4 % transfer tax on property sales. And citizens voiced a resounding NO in all 16 counties that voted on this tax in November. This is in no small part due to a nearly $1 million anti-tax campaign lead by the NC Association of Realtors and the NC Homebuilders Association (www.indyweek.com, 14 Nov 2007). The counties aren’t permitted to promote their own initiatives, and there were no alternative fund-raising citizen campaigns to promote the opposite side of the issue.
Most Durham citizens voiced their opposition to the all-or-none nature of this Land Transfer Tax (LTT), in that it prohibited counties from implementing any exemptions, whatsoever. On the Interneighborhood Council listserv, in the Herald Sun, News and Observer, and elsewhere, citizens convincingly argued that the LTT was an unfair burden on long-time senior citizen residents (who have already paid more than their fair share of taxes), and that it resulted in double taxation that punishes renovators of historic and aesthetic buildings (when renovation should, rather, be encouraged and rewarded). Instead, they demanded the full right to school impact fees, to be imposed on new development only, which the General Assembly’s LTT legislation fell far short of providing.
Recall that, in September, 2003, after unsuccessful attempts to obtain State legislative support, Durham County tried to impose ‘builder impact fees for schools’ without State legislative approval. The NC Home Builders Association filed suit, and the fees were struck down by the NC Supreme Court in June 2006.
Meanwhile, newspaper articles within one week of the General Assembly’s passage of the 2007 LTT legislation, highlighted Orange and Chatham Counties' continued privilege to impose the same builder impact fees in addition to the new land transfer tax, while the rest of the state is still denied this right:
August 21, 2007; News & Observer, The (Raleigh, NC);
Chatham may trim impact fees; Leah Friedman Staff Writer
August 22, 2007; News & Observer, The (Raleigh, NC);
Orange board ponders tax vote; Samuel Spies Staff
August 22, 2007; Chapel Hill News, The (NC); Chatham
to lower fee if new tax is approved; Leah Friedman
(Please continue reading -- including what you can do-- by clicking
the link below)
Since the LTT referendum in November, there’s been little discussion about this tax, or more importantly, the unfairly distributed, citizen-preferred builder impact fees for schools.
For virtually a decade, several NC counties including Chatham County, Orange County, and Chapel Hill/Carrboro, have been legally permitted to levy builder impact fees for schools, while Durham, Granville and the rest of NC have been prohibited from doing so. How has this injustice escaped severe public scrutiny, and immediate and direct state legislative action?
For a couple years now, a petition supporting Durham's right to impose school impact fees (on new development) has resided on the internet. Yet, as of today, there are only 182 signatures, despite overwhelming support for the school impact fee by Durham County citizens. (I must admit, I only became aware of this petition last week while I was trolling the Internet for information.)
Is this battle over? Are we going to concede to NC legislation that has enabled a privileged handful of counties to impose school impact taxes for the last 10 years, while denying the rest of us this right?
The legality of school impact fees should be consistent across the state of NC. At this point, the only fair solution is to permit ALL NC counties to impose such fees (as opposed to the all-or-none LTT), since those privileged few counties have enjoyed the fruits of these fees for many years now.
There isn’t much land left to develop in Durham, so timely legislation is of the utmost importance.
I urge all readers to view the newly updated petition (website below), and to consider signing it today, thereby telling the General Assembly that this sleeping dog is waking up again:
More information on Impact Fees: