Durham's HUD Funding -- Part III: Issues & the Citizen's Role
Back in town; BCR resumes tomorrow

School Impact Fee on New Development Still Inconsistent Across NC

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
Writer Lead

August 22, 2007; Chapel Hill News, The (NC); Chatham
to lower fee if new tax is approved; Leah Friedman
Staff Writer

(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:


Melissa Rooney

More information on Impact Fees:







You say that Durham voted against the land transfer tax. This was never on the ballot in Durham.

Melissa Rooney

"You say that Durham voted against the land transfer tax. This was never on the ballot in Durham."

Thanks for that correction. You are correct, of course. Durham has never put the LTT on the ballot. (The incorrect phrase was an overlooked typo from a previous draft.) I will correct this misinformation right now, so as not to mislead anyone reading it for the first time.

Nonetheless, Durham residents have clearly (and vocally) objected to the LTT, based on the unfairness to long-resident senior citizens and the (double) taxation on renovated properties. This certainly contributed to the LTT not making it on the Durham ballot. Given the growing problems with school overcrowding and related traffic issues, I'll be interested to see if the LTT makes it to the ballot in the near future.

Thanks again for the correction!



In the old days this website avoided partisan stances on issues such as this (while still providing plenty of coverage of the partisan issues themselves).

Hurry back, Kevin.

Diana Palmer

The petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/DCimpact/petition.html is from about 2005. I created and posted the petition, not the Durham County legislative delegation.

So the following statement in your post is inaccurate: "Durham County Representatives, Paul Luebke, ‘Mickey’ Michaux Jr., and Paul Miller, and Senators Bob Atwater and Jeanne Lucas, voiced their unequivocal support of Durham’s right to impose school impact fees in a petition they posted to the internet:"

The petition is addressed to the Durham County legislative delegation, not sponsored by the delegation. The authorship information is in the smaller print at the bottom of the petition.

Dave N.

"Yet, as of today, there are only 182 signatures, despite overwhelming support for the school impact fee by Durham County citizens."

There is overwhelming support for school impact fees in Durham? Says, who? The 182 votes in over two years of solicitation? The handful of activists at comissioners' meetings years ago?

Heck, I'll concede that there likely is more support for impact fees than there would be for any shared tax on all of us. So long as "school impact fees" are marketed slyly, what incumbent citizen wouldn't want this free money? Other peoples' money for Durham's existing citizens (who themselves continue to produce and introduce new kids to Durham's schools) on the dime of the damn "developers" or "relocated Yankess" or simply "the newest homeowners in Durham County" sounds like it could be very popular, even if obviously unfair.

Melissa Rooney

Double Doh! I totally missed the 'TO' and thought that the petition was written BY (rather than for) the legislators listed. Thank you SO much for that second correction. I am grateful that I wasn't the only one who made this mistake (though the others, with whom I discussed it, never went public -- smile). Again, I have corrected the article so that this misinformation is removed (for any future readers).

Kevin, I have even more respect for the time and effort you put into providing informative blog articles for your many readers. Thank you for welcoming me as a guest, but I must say I'm glad that your vacation is over and you are back in the house :)

Despite the two mistakes (now corrected) in my School Impact Fee Post, the bulk of the article still retains its meaning and import.

And what is partisan about demanding that 'The legality of school impact fees be consistent across the state of NC'? I was under the impression that consistency and fairness were central tenets of Democracy.

Thanks again to everyone for understanding (and excusing) my human condition and passion.

Glad to be just a reader again...



I can see your argument about consistency, but the counter-argument is that localities should be free to develop their own policies. That whole "federalism" thing, you know.

I think when you use terms like "how can this injustice continue" you expose yourself to charges of bias. Suspect Kevin might have put it differently, or at least seen the other side of the argument.

Anyway, thanks for keeping the ship afloat even though we disagree.

Melissa Rooney

Thanks for that response, David. Clearly I do feel passionately about this issue -- that is, the inconsistency of NC counties' ability to legally impose school impact fees.

My initial thinking was that it is merely a matter of consistency. If we can't do it, then neither should they.

But then, when I thought of the millions of dollars that Orange and Chatham counties have been able to bring in via their school impact fees over the years, it got me thinking of all the money that was lost on Durham, should the developers not have successfully sued after Durham gov't imposed these fees years ago (w/o Gen Assembly 'approval').

The whole thing is unjust. No county should have received preferential treatment to impose school impact fees on new development. It should have been an all or none deal. But it wasn't. And I do believe the injustice continues.

That said, I totally admit my passion on this issue, and I can see how my post would be viewed as non-objective.

Thanks again for the discussion!

David Rollins

Talk about injustice -- Raleigh and Charlotte residents are allowed to keep chickens in their yards, while Durham is not!

(I couldn't resist throwing that in there as it seems to be a hot topic on the pac2 and NPNA listservs.) Seriously, though, I love me some yardbirds. My neighbors in Charlotte had some, and they did wonders for keeping the bugs down even though I only saw them eat seed. Tasted good, too.

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