Homebuilders Soon To Pay $2,500 More In Hookup Fees

July 21, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Harford County homebuilders will have to pay an additional $2,500 for each water and sewer hookup after Sept. 30.

Two new fees to raise money to pay for public water and sewer system improvements will take effect this fall.

The president of the Maryland Home Builders Association says builders will likely pass the added cost on to buyers.

"If I was looking at buying a house, I'd do it now because the (interest) rates are right and the prices will only be good for about another four or fivemonths," said George Shehan, the homebuilders group's president and a Harford developer.

"The real problem in my mind is that it really does affect cost of affordable housing," Shehan said. "Increasing the cost of a $200,000 house by about $2,500 doesn't make much difference. But increasing the cost of a house that sells for $80,000 by $2,500 can put it out of reach for some people."

The County Council voted, 6-0, Tuesday to approve the new fees -- an $821 water system development fee and a $1,769 sewer system development fee. CouncilwomanSusan B. Heselton, R-District A, did not cast a vote because she wasabsent from the meeting.

The fees will be charged in addition to an existing $1,600 water and sewer hookup fee -- bringing the total hookup cost to $4,190.

The money raised from the new fees will be used to pay for improvements to the county's public water and sewer systems, which the county executive says are needed as a result of the county's population growth in the past five years.

County Treasurer James M. Jewell has said the fees are expected to raise $2.3 million to $2.8 million by June 30, 1992.

The county plans $112 million in water and sewer system improvements over the next five years, including improving the Sod Run sewage treatment plant and tapping into Baltimore City's aqueduct, which runs along Interstate 95 through Harford and Baltimore counties from the Susquehanna River to the city.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann withdrew a proposal to shorten the amount of time developers would have to apply for building permitsso they could be exempt from paying the new fees.

Rehrmann's proposal would have moved the cutoff date from Sept. 30 to July 30 because county administrators feared some developers were trying to stockpile building permits to avoid paying the new fees.

Under the bill passed by the council, developers who have filed building permit applications by Sept. 30 will be exempt from paying the higher fees provided they also meet these conditions:

* Apply for a plumbing permit for the project by Sept. 30.

* Receive a plumbing permit on or before Dec. 31.

* If a plumbing "roughing-in" inspection has been conducted and approved by the Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits on or before Feb. 28, 1992, the fee is waived.

"The fee is alittle bit high, but I can't argue the county needs to build facilities," Shehan said. "I guess, as Council President Jeffrey Wilson said, we're all equally unhappy."

The Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors reports the average price of a single-family home in Harford as of June 30 was $125,530. That's about 2 percent less than the $128,465average price a homebuyer paid in 1990 for a single-family home.

Shehan said two other factors also would likely cause housing prices to rise next year: a state law requiring sprinkler systems in town houses; and increased lumber costs as a result of efforts to save the habitat of spotted owls.

"By July 1992, you'll have an increase of about $4,500 or $5,000 between the hookup fees and the cost of installing sprinklers," Shehan said. "That's pure government cost, as opposed to any increase as a result of an increase in lumber prices or thecost of other materials."

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