SUMMERVILLE — A back-door tax hike is being proposed to help open a back door through town.
Summerville Town Council wants to increase franchise fees for electric, gas and cable companies. The fees are charges utilities pay to operate in a government’s jurisdiction.
The money raised would be earmarked for road projects, chiefly to extend Sheep Island Road.
The extension would accommodate an expected overflow of Interstate 26 traffic coming off an interchange planned for where Sheep Island Road crosses the interstate. That’s about 2 miles north of the 199 Summerville interchange at North Main Street, U.S. Highway 17A.
The fees aren’t a straight-up tax, but the cost routinely is transferred to the customers’ bills. For residential customers, that could range from less than dollar to several dollars a month.
The proposed increase is from 3 to 5 percent, so the charge on individual bills also would increase that much.
As an example, a $100 SCE&G bill that now carries a $3 franchise fee charge for a Summerville resident would have a $5 charge, said SCE&G spokeswoman Kim Asbill.
The increases would bump the town’s revenue from the fees from $1.9 million to $3.2 million per year, an increase of more than $1 million.
Town Council holds a public hearing Sept. 12 on the fees before a final vote.
The road needs are apparent to anyone who drives traffic-swarmed U.S. 17A near its I-26 interchange.
MeadWestvaco wants to develop a 5,000-acre, residential and mixed-use Parks of Berkeley north of I-26 off Sheep Island Road. Commercial and industrial development is already occurring along the interstate frontage there.
As planned, the Sheep Island Road interchange would feed southbound traffic to U.S. 17A at Holiday Drive within a few hundred yards of the 17A exits.
Traffic overload has long been expected in the mile-long commercial strip of U.S. 17A from the interstate to the Berlin G. Myers Parkway.
Long-range Charleston Area Transportation Study plans call for widening the road to the parkway or building a parallel road.
The town’s comprehensive plan calls for completing a Berlin G. Myers Parkway extension across U.S. 17A, along Sheep Island Road, to U.S. 78 about 2 miles south.
With present-day federal and state road financing shortfalls, town officials say they have to take on more of the load in order to get that infrastructure in place.
“It’s obvious we have to give some relief to U.S. 17A,” said Mayor Bill Collins. “If we’re going to cope with the inevitable growth that’s coming our way, we’ve got to get some infrastructure in place.”
The town wants to build a new, 2-mile-long road to divert Sheep Island Road exit traffic to Maple Street (Old Dairy Road) near its intersection with U.S. Highway 78.
Ideally, the present-day two-lane Sheep Island Road also would be widened to its intersection with U.S. 17A near the Berlin G. Myers Parkway.
The work would at least be the beginnings of a new leg to an inner loop of highway around Summerville, begun already by the parkway.
In long-range plans, an outer loop also is planned that would run a highway or parkway from Interstate 526 in West Ashley around Summerville to connect with I-26 north of town.
“If we don’t address these (infrastructure) shortcomings,” Collins said, “we’re going to choke to death.”
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