Impact Tax Questioned

September 16, 1990|By Wilfred C. Wright | Wilfred C. Wright,Guest columnist

I spent some time this afternoon in the Board of Elections office and while there I found out that (Hampstead developer) Marty Hill is a registered voter in Carroll County and that he has voted in every primary and general election, save one, since 1976. Certainly a record of which to be proud.

I, too, am a registered voter in Carroll and have voted in every election since I moved here in 1987. Prior to that event, I was registered in Howard County. We are two good voters and citizens in Carroll out of 53,582 registered as of July 31, 1990.

Every time the issue of the impact tax comes before the County Commissioners, the most frequent and I think, unfortunately, in the eyes of the commissioners, the most important input comes from Marty Hill and the president of the Carroll County Builders Association.

These two men represent only two voters, themselves. Marty Hill is registered only once and can vote only once. Nor does he pay the property taxes for anyone other than himself; he certainly does not pay the taxes on my farm in Alesia.

How, then, can these commissioners, which represent all the people of Carroll County, continue to give such unbalanced weight to what these men, with such obvious bias, have to say?

I have a different point of view. We have spent many thousands of taxpayer dollars to have two studies of the impact problem done. These studies are either right or they are wrong. If they are wrong, you, as the commissioners, have wasted the taxpayers' money. If they are correct, and I suspect they are, you must implement an accurate impact fee or you force me, and all other taxpayers, to subsidize the new residents of this county. Why should I, and how can you?

Many people will say that I am a new resident and now that I have my piece of the rock, the rest of the world can go to hell. When I bought my farm in 1987, I moved into a 150-year-old farmhouse. The following year I got a building permit for an addition to that home. The following year the county raised my assessment on the home by exactly the amount spent on the addition.

Both of our children have graduated from college and therefore are of no impact on the school system. The family we purchased the farm from no longer live in the county. Where is the impact in my case? There is none.

If there had been an impact fee in 1987, and if I had been subject to that impact fee, I would have had to make an economic decision as to whether or not I would purchase that farm. If the answer were no, the seller would have had the option to reduce the price by the amount of the impact fee. Had they chosen not to, I may have looked for another, less expensive farm.

Before becoming a small businessman in Carroll County, I spent 20 years as a commercial banker. When people are looking for a new home, they look at homes that cost less than "x" dollars; with "x" representing the largest amount on which they can afford the monthly payments.

If the cost of that new home includes an impact fee, they really do not care as long as it is included in the "x" dollars. The only other concern that the buyer might have is that this house in Carroll County at "x" is $3,000 or $4,000 more than the same house in some other county.

Even then, however, they would be forced into comparing what Carroll County offers in comparison to the other county. This would include tax rate, quality of schools, quality of life, public services, etc.

In defense of the builders and developers, I would certainly hope that any increase in the impact fee can be implemented in such a way as to not have an adverse effect on their profitability on homes already contracted for.

When builders apply for permits between the implementation date and a date six months thereafter, they will pay the new rate if they cannot provide the county with a bona fide contract dated before the implementation date. If they have such a contract they would get the old rate. The impact fee should be paid at the time of the building permit.

I may have sounded as if I hated Marty Hill; I don't even know Marty Hill. I do know that he votes in each election and that makes him a good citizen. I am concerned, however, that he is always quoted in the papers seemingly as the only person with an opinion on this matter.

I would suggest to you, commissioners, that you think long and hard about whom you represent. There is an election coming up in the very near future. I do not see how you can expect to be returned to office or to be elected to higher office if you do not fairly and adequately deal with this issue.

Don't try to duck it or postpone it because it is an issue that crosses party lines and effects all existing homeowners. Remember, Marty Hill only has one vote; there are 53,581 others watching. Thank you.

Wilfred C. Wright lives in Millers.

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