Richland County Council took the first step Tuesday toward adding a fee on new development to pay for road improvements associated with growth.
Council members ordered a study of what it will take to put the fee in place and revenue gain if the fee is adopted for growth in unincorporated areas.
"We're going to take a look at the opportunity to impose it," council chairman Paul Livingston said. "It's a way to help pay for dealing with new development."
County planners estimate 81 miles of road improvements costing $592 million are needed.
The study - expected to take up to two years - will recommend fees on residential and commercial projects.
"It will make homes less affordable, but we understand there are significant needs for roads," said Earl McLeod, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Columbia. "We are willing to pay our fair share, but no more."
Council interest in the fee shouldn't be seen as a verdict on a separate proposal for a referendum on a sales tax increase of 1 cent on the dollar to keep buses rolling and for road projects, Livingston said.
"Those are not related," he said.