WESTMINSTER — In April 1989, developer Martin K. P. Hill sued the city government,saying its impact fees were unreasonable.
Yesterday, the Hampstead builder said he had "a much greater comfort level" about those samefees.
The difference was a consultant's report regarding Westminster's "capital-benefits fee" program -- derided by many as a development impact fee -- and its accompanying rate structure.
The consultant's long-awaited study found that the city's fee structure, implemented more than two years ago, falls within reasonable limits.
The 39-page report, conducted by Tischler & Associates Inc., a planning consultant based in Bethesda, Montgomery County, was delivered to City Hall last week, and formally accepted for review by the council at its regular meeting Monday.
Yesterday, Hill said he had not yet fully digested the report, but liked what he had seen.
"I'm not arguing with it," he said. "It will prevent people from just pulling numbers outof the sky in the future."
The study stems from the suit Hill, president of Masonry Contractors Inc., filed against the city in April 1989. The builder charged that the city's fees were unreasonable and were determined arbitrarily.
"They didn't have a formal basis for (setting fees)," Hill said yesterday. "They guessed at a number."
The consent order resulting from an out-of-court settlement directed the city and Hill to agree on a consultant to conduct a study of the program, with Hill picking up the estimated $25,000 tab.
The aim of the capital-benefits fee program, said city Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard, is to generate revenue from new development for parks and other municipal projects and capital equipment.
The city chargesdevelopers $750 for each single-family home they build. For commercial and industrial development, the fee is $750 for the first 5,000 square feet, and $15 per square foot thereafter.
The program has produced more than $500,000 to date, Beyard said, and has been used for,among other items, purchase of equipment for the Public Works Department.
The report says the "maximum supportable" fee the city should charge for a single-family home is $831, and advises an actual fee of 10 percent less than the maximum supportable figure.
That leaves a recommended fee of $748 for a single-family dwelling, just $2 under the current fee.
Beyard said the city was encouraged by the report because it served to affirm the fee program.
"It supports whatwe had done," he said.
And although the report essentially backs up the city's current impact fee structure, Hill said he is relieved that the program received a going over from an outside source.
"At least it provides a methodology for establishing a basis for calculating impact fees," Hill said. "That's what I was looking for."
The report, and the city's impact fee program, will be the subjects of a public hearing that will be scheduled later this year, Beyard said.
The hearing also is a condition of the consent order.