Impact Fees in Carroll County

July 20, 1992

Carroll County's commissioners have paid for three different studies on impact fees -- the charges levied on developers to cover the cost of new schools, roads and public parks. The studies, which cost $119,800, were supposed to create an acceptable formula for setting these fees. The commissioners weren't totally happy with the findings of the first two studies, and they are not likely to be satisfied with the latest, either.

The most recent study recommended changing the entire structure of the fee system. Developers have to pay an impact fee of $2,700 for each newly-constructed residential unit. (In South Carroll there is an additional fee of $800 to cover the cost of the proposed Gillis Mills Reservoir.) The study recommends increasing fees on single-family dwellings and town houses and reducing them on mobile homes and rental apartments.

These recommendations rationalize the fee structure. The study tacitly acknowledges the fees are passed on to the homebuyers, and that they place the heaviest burden on people buying low- and moderate-income housing. The study also suggests dividing the county into different zones to ensure fees collected in one area are spent there.

But county developers, who have suffered during the current recession, are likely to claim that if the commissioners adopt these recommendations the county's new homes will be less competitive with housing in other metropolitan jurisdictions. Current residents are likely to protest that the fees are not large enough to cover the actual cost of building new public amenities.

Development has its costs and builders should pay some of those costs. But if the commissioners plan to use impact fees as an indirect way of controlling growth, the levies should be junked. Carroll County has a well-thought-out general plan. The government has also been able to slow growth by restricting developers to recording a maximum of 25 lots each quarter. If the county government sticks to its current general plan and allows new housing to take place without overwhelming the schools, roads, parks and other public amenities, the normal sources of revenue and borrowing -- properly set impact fees -- should be sufficient to cover the costs of capital projects needed for a gradually expanding population.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.