The Town of Angier has agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by a local business owner over water and sewer impact fees.
Donald Gregory, owner of Gregory Inc., accused the town of levying unlawful water and sewer fees on houses he built before the homes were actually connected to the system.
The fees were imposed on Gregory Inc. and others over an extended period of time.
According to lawsuit documents, the town violated state statutes when Gregory or others were charged to pay a series of fees for single-family and multi-family units under construction during fiscal years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18. The impact fees included charges for acreage, capacity and access to both of the town’s sewer and water systems before the services were provided.
Under state statutes, the fees cannot be imposed prior to providing the service. The statute has been upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court, according to town officials.
The fees imposed range from $121 to as much as over $6,000, depending on the type of connection and the type of housing unit.
The board believes the settlement was in the best interest of the town, Angier Mayor Bob Smith told The Daily Record. The settlement still needs the approval of presiding Superior Court Judge Jeffery Foster.
Other cities are facing similar lawsuits and paying as much as $9 million in some cases to settle claims over impact fees.
“We thought it was in our best interest to accept the terms as they are now,” Smith said. “We’ve seen Carthage and Holly Springs and other towns in a similar situation and we thought this would be the most prudent way to settle this issue.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the town, which makes no admission of guilt, will make monetary payments to class members who paid water and sewer impact fees between July 30, 2016 and July 20, 2020. The town will pay $600,000 each year for two years to around 30 to 35 plaintiffs in the case.
The town will have nine months after the final settlement is approved to reach out to eligible members of the class action. If any of the checks are uncashed or the recipients can’t be located, the money will revert back to the settlement fund.
If the total returned is more than $1,000, it will be paid to other class members in the same percentages as their initial payments. If it is less than $1,000, the money will be diverted to the Angier Revitalization Fund.
A hearing in front of Foster will take place on Dec. 18 to determine the fairness of the settlement and whether it should be approved, according to court documents.
Those persons or businesses affected by the suit will be notified with instructions for either remaining a party to the suit or withdrawing.
-Dunn Daily Record