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Supreme Court to Rule on $23K Fee for Home Construction in California County

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George Sheetz, a construction veteran, faced a $23,000 “traffic impact mitigation” fee when seeking a building permit for his retirement home near Lake Tahoe.

He sued the county, arguing that the fee was disproportionate to the impact of his project on roads.

The case has reached the Supreme Court, with Sheetz and his attorney contending that the fee is unconstitutional and unfairly burdens new development applicants.

“That’s when I started getting pissed off,” Sheetz recalled. “I said, ‘this is ridiculous.’”

“‘Well, you don’t have to build here,’” he was told by a county official. “‘Go someplace else.’”

“Mr. Sheetz thought that this was outrageous, that his small, 1,800-square-foot manufactured home wouldn’t cause anything like those kinds of traffic impacts,” Sheetz’s attorney Paul Beard said. “What the county did to Mr. Sheetz was fundamentally unfair. The county asked Mr. Sheetz to pay for pre-existing deficiencies on a highway and local roads as the condition of issuing him a permit.”

“They asked him to pay for traffic impacts caused by other uses and developments like retail development and office development,” Beard added. “Why should he have had to pay for those pre-existing deficiencies and for those impacts caused by other uses?”

“I never dreamed we’d ever get to [the Supreme Court], to be honest with you,” Sheetz said. “I just wanted to fight the fight because I knew what they were doing was wrong.”

“The county didn’t bother to tie the fee over $23,000 to the actual impacts of his projects,” Beard noted. “They were instead using him as a revenue raiser.”

The county defends the fee as necessary for road maintenance, while Sheetz seeks to hold governments accountable for imposing justified fees.

“The outcome of this case could have nationwide ramifications on how local agencies fund the cost of providing needed public infrastructure, such as roads and firefighting equipment,” the county’s Deputy Chief Administrator Carla B. Hass stated.

“The county fees under attack have already been upheld by the California Superior Court and California Court of Appeal, which confirmed that the county complied with all applicable requirements for the imposition of development impact mitigation fees.”

“The county’s fee was based not on any impacts caused by Mr. Sheetz,” Beard said. “They just wanted him to contribute to prior road deficiencies related to the roads nearby the house.”

“That is unconstitutional,” he added.

“Instead of raising taxes on the general population, which is very unpopular,” he said, “the county instead found a way to just target a select few within the county.”

“It doesn’t matter who imposes the fee, whether it’s a bureaucrat behind the permit counter or whether it’s the legislative body, it’s all the same,” Beard said. “A taking is a taking.”

“Every American should want his or her rights protected against violations by the government, regardless of which branch of government does the violation,” he said.

“The average person has got to stand up, take a stand and say, ‘hey, we’re not going to put up with this crap anymore,’” Sheetz said. “You’re just pissing money away. You’re taking it from the working person.”

“The average, everyday working person is busting their a– to try to survive and try to figure out a way to survive and retire comfortably,” Sheetz added. “You can’t keep taking money from the working class that are supporting this country and screwing ’em.”

The ruling is expected by June 30.

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