Carroll County commissioners voted yesterday to ask residents whether county impact fees should be raised this year. Then they voted not to ask.
The result is that impact fees will not be raised before the November election.
Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy wants to increase the fees, which are levied on residential development. Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Julia W. Gouge do not.
Mr. Dell, a Republican, and Mr. Lippy, a Democrat, are running for re-election. Mrs. Gouge is running for lieutenant governor with Republican gubernatorial candidate William S. Shepard.
Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman has recommended that the impact fee for a single-family house be increased by about $2,200. The current fee is $2,700 in most parts of the county.
The commissioners have been discussing a fee increase for more than a year. Last summer, they voted to schedule a public hearing on whether the fees should be raised, but then postponed it.
Yesterday, during a staff meeting with Mr. Curfman, Mr. Lippy made a motion to schedule a public hearing so that residents could comment on the issue. He and Mrs. Gouge voted yes; Mr. Dell voted no.
Later in the meeting, after they had discussed three other topics, Mrs. Gouge made a motion that they rescind their earlier vote to hold a public hearing.
She said she could not vote for a fee increase while the economy remains in a recession. It would be a waste of time and money to hold a hearing if she and Mr. Dell were against an increase, she said.
Mr. Dell agreed that a hearing would cause "a commotion."
So, Mrs. Gouge moved that the impact fee should remain unchanged. Mr. Dell voted for the motion -- and so did Mr. Lippy, until he caught his error.
"I'm awake now," he said.
In May, Mr. Lippy predicted the impact fee would become a campaign issue. He said it should be raised as high as possible to generate revenue.
Builders and developers have protested the fee since it began in the late 1980s. They pass it along to their customers, raising housing costs.
Impact fees are used to help pay for expanding schools, parks and other facilities to accommodate growth.
As part of his recommendation to raise the fee, Mr. Curfman said the cost of protecting the water supply should be spread across the county. Currently, only South Carroll residents pay a water-related impact fee of $800.
Mr. Curfman recommended that the impact fee for single-family houses be raised to $4,925. According to a formula developed by an outside consultant, the fee could be raised as high as $5,184.