Carroll homebuilders say they oppose a proposed increase in county impact fees because part of the money would be dedicated to water resource protection, a provision the builders say is illegal.
If the fee is implemented, builders may challenge it in court on the grounds it does not fit the definition of an impact fee, Gary B. Blucher of Masonry Contractors Inc. in Manchester said yesterday.
"It's more of a special district tax," he said during a meeting of the county chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland and the County Commissioners. About 50 people attended the breakfast at Wakefield Valley Golf Club.
An impact fee is designed to help pay for a specific benefit to a resident such as a road, and a water resource fee does not do that, Mr. Blucher said.
A county report written by a Bethesda consultant says otherwise. Tischler & Associates Inc. of Bethesda recommended last year that county officials add a water resource fee. The report said land purchases related to reservoirs and water protection would benefit all residents.
Mr. Blucher said he planned to testify on the issue at a public hearing at 7 o'clock tonight in the auditorium at Westminster High School, 1225 Washington Road.
The commissioners have proposed increasing the impact fee on a new home by about $2,000 in most areas of the county. The fee would increase to $4,755 from $2,700 and would include a $492 water resource fee.
Impact fees are levied on residential developments and are paid by builders, who pass on the cost to homebuyers. The fees are calculated so that each new housing unit pays a share of the costs of expanding schools and parks to accommodate growth.
Now, only builders of residential and commercial properties in the Mount Airy and Sykesville areas pay a reservoir fee. The $800 fee is added to the $2,700 fee and is used to pay for the planned Gillis Falls Reservoir.
The Tischler report suggested that builders in all parts of Carroll pay a $492 water resource fee. The money would be used to purchase land for reservoirs and protect wells and other water resources.
The consultant also recommended that the county no longer charge a water fee on commercial development. The recommendations came from a 1992 Tischler report that was revised last year.
Mr. Blucher said builders did not challenge the $800 reservoir fee when it was instituted with the impact fee in 1989 because it affected only builders working in South Carroll and because a building moratorium was in effect in the area at the time.
If the new water resource fee is implemented, it would affect builders in all parts of the county and make it harder for the county to show how the fee benefits all residents of the county, he said. Some of those areas don't have public water and sewers. Those factors make it more likely that builders will challenge the fee, he said.
Builders don't like impact fees, but realize why they're needed, Mr. Blucher said. Plus, if facilities keep pace with growth, builders can keep working, he said.
If the impact fee is increased, builders will be watching how the money is spent, Mr. Blucher added.
Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown has pushed for an impact fee increase since before he was elected in November. He did not attend the breakfast yesterday.
Commissioner Richard T. Yates said yesterday that increasing the impact fee would be one way to raise money to build schools. He did not say whether he would vote for an increase.
Earlier this month, he and Mr. Brown voted to sponsor tonight's hearing.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell voted against the hearing. He said yesterday that he believes the water resource fee would be unfair to people who live in areas without public water and must pay for their own well and septic system.
He would not say how he would vote on an impact fee increase, but said homebuyers should be allowed to pay any increase over a period of years.