Proposal to cut fees, permit costs is approved

Commissioners encourage local expansion with vote

April 21, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

At a time when Carroll County faces a tight budget, the commissioners are looking to bolster economic development by slashing fees and accelerating the approval process for commercial and industrial projects -- the kind of projects that generate substantial tax revenue.

The three-member Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to cut review fees -- which can total more than $4,000 per project, depending on its scope -- by 30 percent over three years. The fee reduction is expected to cost the county about $270,000 in lost revenue over the three years.

The commissioners also reduced building permit fees by half, a move that is expected to cost the county about $168,000 in lost revenue. Permit fees range from $25 to $150, depending on the nature of the project.

The commissioners are hopeful the lower fees will encourage local businesses to expand and attract commercial and industrial prospects. Business provides slightly less than 12 percent of Carroll's tax base -- the lowest business-to-residential ratio in the region.

Since they took office in December 1998, the commissioners have made economic development a priority. Their strategic plan, a "to do" list for their four-year term, calls for "business-friendly government processes and fee structures."

About a year ago, they asked Ralph Green, director of the county permits, inspection and review department, to assess the county's development review process and building fees, and suggest improvements.

In addition to the reduced fees, Green also has proposed that small-scale commercial and industrial projects -- those that involve less than half an acre -- be exempted from formal review by the county planning commission. The planning panel agreed Tuesday to support the proposal.

The commissioners are expected to take action on the accelerated review process next month, after Green devises a way for dissatisfied property owners to appeal decisions made by county staff under the proposed approval process.

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