The city council unanimously rejected an appeal from Choate Construction Company to waive impact fees assessed for what's known as Building C in the Woodstock Downtown Development.
The company originally made the request based upon an email it received in April 2013 from Building Official Duane Helton, who said the fees — $34,723.56 (23 residential units at $1,509.72/each) — would be waived because the building permit pulled for the facility was issued before the city's impact fee ordinance went into effect.
However, the city's ordinance specifies that projects in which a valid permit is issued before the city's ordinance went into effect are exempt. A building permit was issued for the building on Jan. 25, 2006, but that permit expired and was no longer valid when the city's ordinance was adopted on May 12, 2008.
A new building permit was issued on Nov. 13, 2013, to complete 23-multi-family residential units inside the building. While the construction is complete, the city has not issued a certificate of occupancy as the fees have not been paid.
William Choate of Choate Construction Company, which is behind the project, said the company did its "due diligence" and relied upon information it received from Helton when they took on the project.
"We relied upon those commitments (that) there would not be any impact fees, which was confirmed twice," he said, adding the company has invested in the city of Woodstock and it would not be "good business" for the city to backtrack on its word.
Impact fees are charged by local governments to developers to offset the costs of the increased strain on local services.
Councilman Chris Casdia rebuffed Choate's claim, noting that if Choate had done his "due diligence," he would have known that only the city council can waive fees.
To characterize this as someone "holding you hostage...is not the right thing to do or the right words to use," he said.
Casdia added that while the council could waive the fee, that cost is eventually shifted to another area.
"There isn’t a waiver of impact fee," he said. "It’s someone else paying it."
City Manager Jeff Moon, who said he takes responsibility for the "misinformation," said the building lost its grandfathered status once the building permit expired.He also said the plans had been altered to the point where the city had to review the plans on two of the floors.
"This is not the same project that was permitted in 2006 or 2007 when Hedgewood permitted the project," he added, referencing the original company that constructed the building.Building C, a white five-story structure that sits at 260 Chambers Street, has been remodeled to where it has 23 apartment units.
The building's first level is designed for commercial use while the remaining four levels are for residential purposes.
The original design called for 20 condominium units. The modified design will include 23 apartment units. None of the condo units were ever finished and were all at the shell-stage when they were re-permitted.