The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
County Council, April 12
Uniform scale of charges to municipalities for collecting fees
Some minor amendments to Greenbelt Bank ordinanceWarwick Jones
There was little of import before the Finance Committee at yesterday’s meeting. Council agreed to a uniform fee schedule when acting on behalf of municipalities in collecting building license and user fees. It also agreed that some minor amendments to the Greenbelt Belt Ordinance and operating procedures, and to extend an arrangement with Folly Beach for use of a County Sheriff’s officer,
Over the years, more municipalities have turned to the County to collect business license and user fees on their behalf. In consequence of the way it has grown, the structure has not been uniform and some municipalities have paid more than others. In some cases, the municipalities have not been charged for collection. This will now change, effective July 1.
North Charleston main user
For Business License services, the County will charge $14 per account and split 50% of the audit on under reported fees. For Accommodation Fees, the County will charge 0.5% of collections and for Hospitality Fees 1% of collections. These three categories make up the bulk of all the fees and North Charleston is the biggest contributor of all the entities utilizing the service. The County estimates that $661,400 will be collected from Business License fees of which North Charleston will contribute $460,000. For Accommodation Fees, the total is estimated at $118,000 of which North Charleston will contribute $17,400 and for Hospitality Fees, a total of $81,635 with North Charleston contributing $42,110.
The City of Charleston collects all its own fees. Most of the other entities are selective, with Mount Pleasant, for example collecting business license fees but not Accommodation and Hospitality Fees.
The new schedule also relates to fees for storm water, solid waste, hazard materials and others. But from the documents distributed by the County, few municipalities will utilize the service for these items and fees collected will not be great.
Council was told by staff that the new fee structure would raise a similar amount to that in the past. The County did not expect to make a profit as the fees just covered costs. No objection to the new fee schedule had been expressed by the municipalities as yet.
Refining the OrdinancesThe amendments to the Greenbelt Bank ordinance were common sense in our opinion. In certain respects, the amendments could be considered refinements. We suspect there will be more changes as time passes as the County gains experience in applying sales-tax funds to the acquisition of greenbelts.
The changes proposed related to expanding the definition of eligible applicants to include federal agencies, and to the timing of the distribution of greenbelts funds to successful applicants. Council also acted to enable the Greenbelt Bank to work similarly to the Council in relation to providing information to the public but having an ability to discuss matters in executive session when confidentiality was necessary.
Folly Beach wears out patienceFolly Beach has been deliberating for some time as to how it manages public safety. The County lent it Major Terry Boatright as an interim Public Safety Director. The loan was for 90 days and the Country expected Folly Beach to find a replacement in that time. It hadn’t and indeed it hadn’t tried. This raised the hackles of a few Council members who noted that Folly paid nothing for the services. Folly Beach wants to retain the officer until August and noted that a search for a replacement would soon be underway. Council agreed to the extension but Chairman Scott voted against the extension.
Challenging Planning issueMost issues before the Planning Committee are of little interest to most viewers. But yesterday we found two interesting. The first related to a property on Orleans Road in West Ashley. The owner of the lot wanted a rezoning from residential to office residential. Council was evenly divided and voted 4/4. This means that a decision will hinge on Council member Bostic who was absent yesterday but presumably will be at the Council meeting on Tuesday when the matter will again be voted on.
We had a hard time deciding what was right. The opponents argued that the road was becoming a “cut through” and that the rezoning would be a step in the commercialization of the whole road. They also claimed that residents opposed the rezoning but it was unclear whether this really was the case. Chairman Scott, one of the proponents, said “we have come too late to this dance”. Orleans Road is already a cut through road – between Highway 17 and Sam Rittenberg - and it seems inevitable that it will continue to be so. Commercialization will ultimately extend along its length. This prompted question by Council member Schweers that if this was the case, shouldn’t Council agree to rezone all the properties along the road… And so on.
The other related to a small boat landing in the development on West Edgewater Drive, West Ashley. The County has a right of way to the water and the property includes a small boat landing. However, there is very little room to park around the facility and the ramp itself is narrow, accommodating only small boats. Should the County abandon the right of way and allow the property owners on either side to claim the right of way? They say they will cede the right of way to the local community. Or should the Parks and Recreation Commission be given an opportunity to acquire it? Council member Condon thought it could be interested even if the utility were very limited. Council agreed to steps which effectively meant that the matter will be discussed further.