Rehrmann Seeks Authority To Charge Impact Fees


February 03, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Keeping her most frequently pronounced campaign promise, County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann asked Harford's state legislators Thursday to submit legislation to authorize Harford to charge development impact fees.

But the legislators gave the idea a cool reception.

"I'm going to oppose impact fees. Your emphasis should be on hook-up fees to pay for the expansion of Sod Run (wastewater treatment plant)," Sen. Habern W. Freeman said.

"Speaking as the old county executive, you want to increase what it costs per house or per unit by$2,000 or $3,000 to pay for water and sewer and then put another $2,000 or $3,000 impact fee on top of that? It's not going to happen."

But Rehrmann argued impact fees may be needed to help pay for expanding and upgrading public services to relieve the strain on them caused by the county's rapid growth in the past five years.

The executive would not say how much of a per home impact fee she would propose.

Rehrmann said she thinks Harford needs the state legislature'spermission to charge impact fees cause of a state Court of Appeals case last year involving Montgomery County. In that case,the court ruled impact fees are a tax and said charter counties must have permission from the General Assembly to charge such taxes.

"We have a roads bill that says, 'If you have an impact, you have to put money in,' " said Rehrmann in an interview. "That, I think, is an impact fee. And unless we have a bill, as far as I'm concerned, we don't have theauthority for it."

Delegate Donald C. Fry, D-District 35A, said he is reluctant to support such legislation unless the County Council, too, asked for it.

"When we met with the council, they didn't mention a thing about it," said Fry. "The economy's not moving in such a fashion that homeowners or homebuilders can afford to pay an additional $2,000 or so for a house. I really don't see that idea progressing down the pipeline."

Delegate Rosemary Hatem Bonsack, D-District34, said, "I don't know if it will fly. We haven't had much of a chance to talk about it yet, but it doesn't seem likely to me that it will fly."

Rehrmann's other major request of the delegation was for help in obtaining additional state money to help pay for improvementsto the Sod Run Wastewater Treatment plant.

There are two problemswith the plant, Rehrmann said. First, the plant needs to be upgradedto handle 15 million gallons of sewage a day; the capacity is 10 million gallons a day now. Second, said the executive, because of the efforts to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, the state is encouraging treatment plants to use the latest technology to reduce nitrogendischarges -- Biological Nitrogen Removal, or BNR.

BNR is the removal of nitrogen from wastewater using bacteria instead of chemicals.

If Harford upgrades the size of the treatment plant and adds the BNR procedure, the total project cost could be $22.1 million to $26.1 million, Rehrmann said.

"The legislators have to decide whether we ought to do BNR and will we get $7 million from the state," said Rehrmann. "We've got to make a decision on engineering, the money can come later, but we have to have the commitment from the state."

But Bonsack said after the delegation meeting that "the delegation's decision is not going to drive what happens. The bottom line is money, where is it going to come from? Maybe we need to think about hook-up fees."

Rehrmann's other requests of the delegation:

* A $300,000 state bond bill to help pay for a new building at the Harford Equestrian Center for use during the Harford County Farm Fair.

* Lobby thestate Higher Education Commission to get their support for the Higher Education and Applied Technology (HEAT) Center, a research and education facility planned for Aberdeen.

* Lobby the State Highway Administration to place plans for improvements to Perryman Road on the special projects list so that the improvements are done earlier than planned. The road will be a major transportation link to the planned Clorox Co. new plant opening in 1993.

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