Anne Arundel County would have to triple the impact fees levied on residential developers to cover the county's road and school costs arising from new home construction, according to a consultant's draft report.
"I can tell you that the initial recommendation is for a tripling of the fees if we are serious about capturing the real cost of development," County Executive Janet S. Owens said in her budget address last week.
A 300-percent increase would drive the one-time charge to a developer for a new single-family home from $2,629 to nearly $8,000 -- no doubt provoking protest from builders and others worried about the effect of the charge on the construction industry and on buyers of new homes.
"Needless to say, I was taken aback," said Susan Davies, co-director of government affairs for the Maryland Homebuilders Association.
Owens did not indicate whether she agreed with the consultant's draft report. But she has publicly expressed support for some increase since learning, shortly after her election in 1998, that the county faced a $400 million backlog of school repairs. She could not be reached for comment Friday.
The fees have not changed since the county began collecting them in 1988, and homebuilders in Howard, Calvert and other counties pay considerably more in those jurisdictions.
Owens will form a committee to study the consultant's final recommendations once they are submitted, said her spokesman, Andrew C. Carpenter. He said he did not know when that will be or who will sit on the committee. Once she receives the committee's recommendations, she will submit legislation to the County Council, Carpenter said.
County Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., a Millersville Democrat, has said he thinks developers should pay a greater share of infrastructure costs. A tripling of the impact fees would generate an additional $9.8 million a year from single-family homes alone, based on 1999 building permit figures.
But Councilman John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican, warned that developers would pass any increase to homeowners.
"Maybe tripling reflects a true impact value," Klocko said. "The bottom line is the citizens are the ones who pay for it every time. It's a form of taxation that can't be taken lightly."
Since impact fees vary only according to house type -- the owner of a $300,000 single-family house pays the same fee as the owner of one worth $100,000 -- Davies said people buying less expensive "starter homes" would bear the brunt of a large increase.
"It can actually be a deal-breaker in terms of people's ability to qualify if you add $4,000 or $5,000 onto the price of a home," she said, adding that a smaller increase in impact fees would be reasonable.
Since 1988, the county has collected $79 million in school and transportation impact fees. Through 1998, the county executive and County Council have appropriated $72.2 million for roads and school construction, and the county has spent $47.8 million of that sum.
The consulting team exploring changes to impact fees is the same one that led Anne Arundel's original impact fee study in 1987. The team consists of Nancy E. Stroud, an attorney in Boca Raton, Fla., and James C. Nicholas, professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Florida.