Environmental Review Fees Raise Ire Of Area Builders

April 03, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

Overshadowed by a likely rise in landfill dumping fees are nearly a dozen other proposed charges that will increase the cost of development in the county.

At a public hearing Monday, members of Carroll'sbuilding community strongly opposed a host of environmental review fees that would impose costs on studies and inspections now done for free.

"We're paying a review fee for everything that comes in," said Martin K. P. Hill, president of Manchester's Masonry Contractors Inc. and a former president of the Carroll County chapter of the Maryland Association of Homebuilders Inc. "We pay for a concept plan, we pay for preliminary plan, we pay for a final plan. When does it all end?"

It won't end with environmental review fees should the charges proposed by the Department of Natural Resource Protection win County Commissioner approval.

Some of those fees -- ranging from storm water management plan reviews to landscape reviews and even common-use driveway reviews -- could be as much as $5,000 for a large-scale industrial project.

Monday's 45-minute hearing attracted about 25 people. While the new development fees were on the table, the county's so-called landfill tipping fee -- and a proposed one-time, $47 charge to households instead of the $15 a ton now charged -- was to be discussed.Consideration of the tipping fee is expected in the next several weeks.

Of concern to the builders is the county's collection of fees as a money-making enterprise, a concern the commissioners and the county budget director say is unwarranted.

However, the environmentalfees -- expected to generate about $149,000 during the year beginning July 1 -- are designed to recoup most of the cost to the county of providing the reviews.

"The industry has no problem with paying for its fair share," said Gary Blucher, president of Britannia Development Corp. "But just because you've created a department I think it isquite unfair to ask the builders to pay for that department."

TheDepartment of Natural Resource Protection was established last summer.

Some of the fees discussed Monday are for services currently provided for free. Environmental sensitivity reviews -- to assess the environmental impact of development -- would cost a minimum of $50. Development review fees for common-use driveways and for landscaping plans would cost 4 percent of the total cost of construction.

Other fees reviewed include the per-phone charge assessed to pay for 911 service, which would increase 50 percent from 30 cents to 45 cents a month; a fire review plan, used to determine fire protection procedures, will jump from nothing to $150; and a soil evaluation test for septic systems will rise from $25 to $35.

Throughout the meeting, the three commissioners sat silently as members of the building industry testified. They will render a decision on the fees before setting their 1992 budget, which must be approved by May 30.

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