Lawsuit seeks return of $10 million to Berkeley County homeowners, businesses

A map shows the proposed Sheep Island Interchange, a road project in Berkeley County that is part of a new impact fee lawsuit there.

Some Berkeley County homeowners and business owners could reap a windfall, pending the success of a lawsuit filed against the county over a controversial impact fee.

The lawsuit, filed by four residents and three businesses, seeks class action status and the return of at least $10 million in the fees collected over the past decade.

Their complaint says the fee must be refunded because the money — which was to go toward a new Interstate 26 exit called the Sheep Island Interchange and a spine road between the Dorchester County line and U.S. Highway 17-A — was not spent in a timely way.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Clay McCullough, Ross Appel and James Ward.

Berkeley County Council passed the impact fees in 2006, and the lawsuit contends the money needed to be spent by June 30, 2014. Only $1.9 million was spent by then.

Both current Supervisor Bill Peagler and former Supervisor Dan Davis criticized the fee during their recent campaign. Last November, voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase for infrastructure projects, and County Council repealed the impact fee program a month later.

It’s unclear how vigorously the county will contest the lawsuit.

County spokesman Michael Mule released a statement Wednesday saying, “Berkeley County was just served paperwork on this claim. Since the county has not had adequate time to study the claim, the county will not issue comment on it at this time.”

The plaintiffs’ attorneys said they tried to work with the county to find a solution before going to court.

“We were optimistic the county was prepared to do the right thing and refund the impact fees to thousands of Berkeley County residents and businesses,” McCullough said. “Unfortunately, we are left with no other option but to ask the court to force the current administration to do what Berkeley County officials should have done a long time ago.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.