Commissioners raise levy on homebuilders Impact fees' increase to aid schools, parks

November 19, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

After a brief public hearing, a divided Board of County Commissioners increased yesterday the fees charged developers to build houses.

The additional revenue from impact fees will help fund school and park projects in a county that has seen its population grow by about 50 percent since the 1970s.

The fee increases ranged from almost 6 percent for a single-family home to 11 percent for a mobile home.

"It's been three years since we last looked at the impact fees. I believe, with the cost of things as they are today, we did the right thing," said Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who is leaving office when his term expires Dec. 7.

Brown and Commissioner Richard T. Yates, who also is leaving office next month, voted to approve the higher fees. The fee went from $4,487 to $4,744 for a single-family home; from $3,377 to $3,595 for a townhouse; from $1,784 to $1,925 for a multi-family home; and from $1,473 to $1,631 for a mobile home.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who was re-elected to a third term, voted against the increase after trying to table the measure until the next board takes office.

"I don't think it's necessary," he said of the increase. "We raised the piggyback tax to fund school construction. I feel that should be sufficient to provide the schools we need."

In 1995, the commissioners voted to raise the county's piggyback income tax to 58 percent of the state income tax, up from 50 percent, to build several schools to alleviate crowding.

But Brown said the increase in the piggyback tax might not generate enough revenue to pay for schools and roads. Over the past four years, money for road construction has dwindled. In 1994, the county spent $8 million on roads. This year, only $500,000 was earmarked for roads.

"You can't solve financial problems by overlooking revenues that are legitimate and could be collected," Brown said. "I cannot find a justifiable reason to leave the impact fees below the level they should be."

Brown and Yates asked the county comptroller several months ago to tell them how much to charge for impact fees to cover the cost of needed roads, schools, parks and other services to support the 1,000 residential units a year allowed under the county's new growth control law, Brown said. The comptroller recommended the increase that was adopted yesterday.

In a last-minute attempt to influence the vote, three residents offered their opinions during a public hearing. One favored the measure and two opposed it.

Sue Ellen White of Eldersburg told the board she supported the higher fees.

"In fact, I would support an even larger increase because it is evident that the impact of new development is not fully compensated by these fees," she said.

The only homebuilder who attended the hearing disagreed.

"These impact fees are illegal, unequal and discriminatory," Harold Dorsey told the board.

"If you're so intent on raising money for schools, charge an equal fee for people who are buying older existing homes," said Dorsey, who builds between two and 10 houses each year.

Stephanie Myers of the Carroll County Association of Realtors asked the board to "table this issue and allow the new Board of County Commissioners the opportunity to explore other options

to generate revenue."

The commissioners-elect -- Robin Bartlett Frazier, a property rights advocate, and Julia Walsh Gouge, a former two-term commissioner -- said during the campaign that they would not favor an increase. The new board could choose to lower the fee.

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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