Owens names project panel

County executive's picks will study fees paid by developers

Cost likely to increase

June 16, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

County Executive Janet S. Owens named yesterday a "blue ribbon panel" to recommend the first changes since 1987 to the impact fees developers pay to help offset the county's road and school costs arising from new-home construction.

Owens made it clear that the 15-member committee should not even think about leaving the one-time charges unchanged.

"I think it's just a matter of how much they will go up," she said in a statement.

To guide the politically sensitive mission, Owens tapped St. John's College president Christopher B. Nelson to be chairman. The goal, he said, will be to strike a balance "to keep the county a desirable place to live and work."

"That's going to be an interesting number to try to achieve," said committee member Al Johnston, of the Greater Severna Park Council, an umbrella group of 65 community organizations.

The committee's work is expected to take about three months, said Owens spokesman Andrew C. Carpenter.

Builders' stakes will be represented on the panel.

About half of the members appear to be tied to the building or real estate industries, or affiliated with a chamber of commerce.

They include Michael DeStefano of Sturbridge Associates and Robert Tucker of Associated Builders & Contractors.

Owens said she appointed a diverse committee so that all "stakeholders" in the county would have a say. One member is Jane Sinclair of the Severn River Commission, which advises the county and Annapolis on environmental issues affecting the river. And Johnston has long thought the fees should be higher to account for the impact of development on county coffers.

The current impact fees are $2,629 per single-family home, $1,893 per townhouse and $1,331 per apartment.

A Florida-based consulting team studying the issue for Owens has made an initial recommendation to triple the fees.

That report, expected to be completed this month, will serve as a guide to the committee.

The County Council would have to approve any increase, and Councilman John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican, has warned against going too high. Because developers pass on such charges to buyers, he says, any increase would amount to a tax increase.

A tripling of impact fees would generate an additional $9.8 million a year for the county from single-family homes alone, based on 1999 building permit figures.

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