Builders call fees too high Charges 'crippling' industry, they say

June 02, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

New home prices in Carroll are high because the county and towns charge too much for impact and utility hookup fees, home builders told the commissioners yesterday.

"You're making up shortfalls by loading up on fees for services. There is no such thing as affordable housing with those fees," said Richard L. Hull, president of Carroll Land Services, a Westminster engineering and surveying company. "It's crippling our industry."

The commissioners responded to the builders' complaints by agreeing to help them gather and evaluate information about fees charged in Carroll.

"Having all that available might open some eyes," Manchester builder Martin K. P. Hill said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he is concerned that fees "pay for a lot of bureaucratic red tape."

Home builders generally pass the fees along to buyers. The average price of a home sold in Carroll in April was $137,129, according to the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

This compares with $121,711 in Harford County; $127,411 in Baltimore County; and $190,522 in Howard County.

Six building industry representatives met for an hour yesterday with the commissioners at the County Office Building. The two groups meet quarterly.

Sykesville is the most expensive place to build a home because impact, water/sewer hookup and building permit fees add $12,000 to the price, Mr. Hull said.

Frank Schaeffer, chief of the county's Bureau of Development Review, said he did not know whether the $12,000 figure was accurate. Town fees for water/sewer hookups and other services vary, he said.

The county charges an impact fee on residential development to pay for expanding schools and parks to accommodate growth. The fee is $2,700 now, and the commissioners are considering raising it to $4,462. A public hearing is set for 7 p.m. June 28 at the Agriculture Center.

The current impact fee is higher in South Carroll because builders are charged an $800 fee to pay for the planned Gillis Falls Reservoir. The current fee of $3,500 would increase to $4,462 under the proposal being considered by the commissioners.

Impact and other fees should be charged to residents on their tax bills, Mr. Hull said.

County figures project that building activity in Carroll will run slightly ahead of last year. In 1992, builders applied for 1,135 residential building permits.

This year, builders will apply for 1,199 residential permits, according to projections based on applications made in the first four months of this year.

This year's projected figure is slightly below average for the years 1984 to 1992. The average number of residential permits applied for in those years was 1,332.

General Services Director J. Michael Evans and his staff will work on the study with the home builders.

Yesterday, builders also asked the commissioners to lift a county rule that allows builders to record a maximum of 25 building lots per quarter.

"The 25-lot rule is past its usefulness," Mr. Hull said.

Builders should be able to record as many lots as the economy dictates, he said.

The 25-lot rule was instituted by the Planning Commission and has been in effect for at least 20 years, Mr. Schaeffer said. Its purpose is to help avoid "a boom or bust" situation for builders, he said. It also helps ensure that the county has adequate schools, parks and other public facilities for its residents, he said.

When the rule was implemented, developers were building smaller communities, Mr. Hill said.

"It wasn't as much of a burden or a hindrance to developers as it is today," he said.

Mr. Dell and Mr. Lippy agreed to ask the Planning Commission to reconsider the rule. Commissioner Julia W. Gouge did not attend yesterday's meeting.

Mr. Lippy said the public sees the 25-lot rule as one way of managing growth.

Mr. Hill disagreed, saying that the rule drives up the price of homes because builders are forced to do some work, such as building temporary cul-de-sacs and sediment control barriers, more than once.

"Maybe what you have in place doesn't do what people think it does," Mr. Hill said.

"You have a good point there, except you folks are aware perception is a huge part of reality," Mr. Lippy said.

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