Ecker Wants 'Option' To Impose Fees On County's New Building Sen. Yeager Says Adequate Facilities Should Come First

December 09, 1990|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

County Executive Charles I. Ecker told the county's Annapolis delegation Wednesday he wants authority to impose impact fees on developers.

The request for such authority does not mean he intends to use it, Ecker said. It is merely an "option" he would like to have available in his financial arsenal.

As written, the bill sponsored by Delegate Robert Flanagan, R-14B, would give the county authority to collect fees from developers to finance the cost of additional or expanded schools.

Ecker wants the bill amended to cover the costs of roads and other types of infrastructure.

Sen. Thomas M. Yeager, D-13, and Delegate Virginia M. Thomas, D-13A, raised questions about the impact-fee bill. Yeager said he thought it was premature and should wait until after the county enacts an adequate-facilities ordinance.

Only then, Yeager said, could the county determine what impact fees if any, would be needed.

Thomas said her concern was that the bill would further reduce the county's limited stock of affordable housing, since she assumes developers would pass the fees on to the consumer.

The delegation will probably not vote on Ecker's request until after the General Assembly convenes Jan. 9.

The delegation originally intended to hold a public work session and vote Wednesday night on whether to approve the impact-fee bill and six other legislative requests. That meeting has now been postponed indefinitely.

The reason for the delay, Flanagan said, is that newly elected delegation members -- two GOP delegates and one GOP senator -- prefer to wait until after they are sworn in to vote on the legislative requests.

Flanagan, who was elected chairman of the delegation last Wednesday and is a sponsor of the impact-fee bill, said he is "optimistic" that it will win delegation approval. To do so, it and the other bills must receive a majority vote of the county's six delegates, and a majority vote of its three senators.

Flanagan said he was also optimistic a bill to give the county authority to impose a 5 percent hotel tax would win delegation approval, as would a bill authorizing a $250,000 bond for the renovation of Rockland Arts Center.

Earlier, county budget administrator Raymond S. Wacks told the delegation that the county would definitely include a matching grant of up to $250,000 for the arts center in next year's budget.

Wacks reminded the delegation that final inclusion of the matching funds in the budget was by no means a certainty since the County Council can delete from the budget whatever it chooses.

Flanagan said the delegation would need more information from Ecker before deciding whether to endorse a bill authorizing the Liquor Board to allow the county to conduct an annual wine festival.

A bill to allow restaurants to use the same liquor license when expanding to a second location in the county will probably win favor with the delegates, Flanagan said, but may have trouble getting by the senators.

Opponents of the bill said they feared it would favor and encourage chain restaurants and would be detrimental to family-owned eateries.

Restaurants now wanting to expand must form a corporation separate from the parent in order to gain a liquor license.

Although the Howard County Licensed Beverage Dealers Association favored a bill that would allow liquor stores to conduct wine-tastings, Flanagan doubts the bill will win delegation approval.

Sen. Yeager had several questions about the bill and expressed doubts whether any liquor store in the county was big enough to conduct a wine tasting.

The other bill in doubt -- indeed it almost died for want of a sponsor -- would allow people who put their property in the county's agricultural preservation program to receive payment for easements on their property -- something that happens now when people put property in the state preservation program.

When the bill appeared as though it would die for want of a sponsor, Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-4B, said he would sponsor it "in order to get it on the table."

Some members of the delegation expressed doubts about the bill, saying they felt the increased money offered to property owners entering the program -- more than what the state offers -- was enough of an incentive.

Five bills died Wednesday for lack of a sponsor. They would have allowed the Liquor Board to issue caterers' licenses, allowed the sheriff to appoint a chief deputy, increased the number of Circuit Court judges to five, created a Liquor Board separate from the County Council, and allowed a student representative with voice but not a vote to serve on the school board.

The Circuit Court judgeship bill was withdrawn because it was deemed to be a statewide bill rather than a local bill.

The delegation is expected to continue to press for an additional judge.

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