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A win for opponents of Cabarrus County homebuilder fee

CABARRUS COUNTY — Homebuilders working in Cabarrus County shouldn’t have to pay a controversial fee designed to go toward building schools, according to a North Carolina Supreme Court decision issued Friday.

Since 1998, homebuilders in Cabarrus County have been required to pay a fee for every house they build to fund construction of new schools, under the county’s adequate public facilities ordinance.

When the ordinance was created, the fee per home was $500. But in 2008 it was raised to $8,617 per single-family home, $4,570 per townhouse and $4,153 per multifamily unit.

On Friday, the Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, upheld an appellate court ruling that declared the ordinance illegal.

Justice Barbara Jackson wrote the court’s majority opinion, which says the ordinance “impermissibly places the burden of funding public school construction on developers by using a revenue-generating mechanism that is disguised as a zoning ordinance.”

According to the ordinance, its goal is to ensure that no development is approved if it would cause a reduction in the levels of service for public schools.

Cabarrus County officials could not be reached for comment.

Not surprisingly, some in the Charlotte-area building industry are praising the ruling.

“We are very pleased with it,” said Joe Padilla, executive public policy director with the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition. “It definitely makes it clearer that the APFO fees are illegal and that Cabarrus County did not have the statutory authority to go forward with it.”

Payton Guion can be reached at payton.guion@mecktimes.com.

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