Balto. Co. considers fees for rezoning Council must enact fees or cut county's budget by $749,000.

May 02, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

When Baltimore County begins its 14-month rezoning process this summer, residents who want to change the zoning on their land could face a rude surprise: For the first time, they may have to pay a filing fee.

If the County Council approves, rezoning a parcel of land smaller than two acres in urban areas and 10 acres in rural areas would cost $500. Larger rezonings would cost $1,250.

If the council does not approve the fees, it must cut $749,000 from the budget proposed by County Executive Roger B. Hayden. Hayden already has built the fee revenue into his proposed fiscal year 1992 budget.

Baltimore County would be the first jurisdiction in the metropolitan area to impose them, said Planning Director P. David Fields.

Under the plan, community groups would get away with a mere $75 fee. Also, county planners and members of the County Council and planning board would be exempt from fees because, as representatives of the county, they often submit rezoning proposals on behalf of the government. Also, board or council members might add a proposal enabling them to waive the fee in certain hardship cases.

The idea behind the fees is to make those who seek to benefit from rezonings foot the administrative cost -- a user fee, so to speak, Fields said.

Several council members are opposed to the size of the fees, but agree with the concept. They must approve a county budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 by the end of this month.

Councilman Vincent Gardina, D-5th, who represents Essex, said he agrees that some fees are needed, but worried that "the ma and pa property owner may not be able to pay. The cost of comprehensive rezoning is about $1 million and that has been balanced on the backs of all the taxpayers when only a few participate."

However, Deborah Dopkin, a private attorney who specializes in zoning cases, called the fees "outrageous." She and several other zoning attorneys claim that charging so much less for community associations is discriminatory and that any fee ought to at least be a standard amount for everyone.

"It's closing a process that was not designed that way," Dopkin said.

Rough calculations from 1988, when the county considered 1,200 separate rezoning proposals countywide, showed that the process cost the planning department about $814,000 in time and materials, Fields said. The new fees would produce about $749,000 if the volume is about the same as in '88, he said.

Baltimore County considers routine proposals to rezone land once every four years as it takes a quadrennial comprehensive look at land use.

The next review will begin Aug. 1, when rezoning applications may be filed. All applications must be in by Jan. 15, 1992. The planning staff will then review them and recommend action to the planning board, which will hold seven public hearings next spring, one in each council district.

The planning board will then make recommendations on each proposal to the County Council, which will have another round of public hearings in September 1992.

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