Development Impact Fees & Capital Improvements Planning

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Basic Info

The Georgia Development Impact Fee Act (DIFA) was enacted into law in 1990. It sets rules for local governments that wish to charge new development for a portion of the additional capital facilities needed to serve it. Under DIFA, local governments may impose exactions on developers to help finance the expansion of their infrastructure systems only through an impact fee system and only for the specific types of facilities and infrastructures listed in the law.

The intent of the Act is to:

Ensure that adequate public facilities are available to serve new growth and development;

  1. Promote orderly growth and development by establishing uniform standards by which municipalities and counties may require that new growth and development pay a proportionate share of the cost of new public facilities needed to serve new growth and development;
  2. Establish minimum standards for the adoption of development impact fee ordinances by municipalities and counties; and
  3. Ensure that new growth and development is required to pay no more than its proportionate share of the cost of public facilities needed to serve new growth and development and to prevent duplicate and ad hoc development exactions.

Local governments that wish to impose development impact fees must have an adopted comprehensive plan that meets the Minimum Standards and Procedures for Local Comprehensive Planning. The comprehensive plan must include a Capital Improvements Element (CIE) in order to be in compliance with DIFA. A current plan can be amended to include a CIE.

The requirements for local governments that include CIEs in their comprehensive plans include:

  1. Updating their CIEs annually. The annual update must include:
    1. the Annual Financial Report on impact fees required by DIFA; and
    2. a new fifth year schedule of improvements, and any changes to or revisions of previously listed CIE projects, including alterations in project costs, proposed changes in funding sources, construction schedules, or project scope.
  2. Updating their entire Short Term Work Programs (STWP) annually.

Qualified Local Government (QLG) Status

To encourage local governments' engagement in comprehensive planning, Georgia incentivizes it by allowing cities and counties with DCA-approved comprehensive plans access to a special package of financial resources to aid in implementing their plans.  This includes Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), water and sewer loans from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA), economic development funding from the OneGeorgia Authority, and a variety of other programs from DCA and partner agencies (a detailed list is available in the "Fact Sheets" section, below).  Elegibility for this package of incentives is called Qualified Local Government (QLG) status.

The CIE's which are required in order to for a local government to collect development impact fees become separate, distinct part of communities' local comprehensive plans.  Keeping those CIE's up-to-date by completing the necessary annual CIE updates is a component of the standard maintenance and upkeep of the local comprehensive plan for communities who undertake the collection of these fees.  In recognition of this link to the comprehensive plan, a city or county's Qualified Local Government (QLG) status can be adversely affected if it is unable to complete its annual CIE updates on-schedule. 

NOTE: Various statutes provide DCA with 30-45 days to review CIE-related submittals to verify their compliance with applicable standards.  Be aware that all deadlines are the dates by which the local government must have formally adopted a DCA-approved annual CIE update--the deadlines are not submittal dates, they are process completion dates.  We recommend 60-90 day lead times to ensure that reviews can be completed and any necessary revisions conducted and subsequently reviewed before passage of applicable deadlines.