Homebuyers could see impact fees skyrocket

Consultant urges county to take step to offset other costs

Would rise by thousands

Owens committee to report back on issue in September

June 29, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

A consultant is recommending that Anne Arundel County quadruple impact fees for single-family homes and quintuple such fees for townhouses as a way to recoup the county's costs for roads, schools and other services.

Since builders pass the one-time fees on to buyers, the increases would add nearly $9,000 to the price of a new single-family home and about $8,000 to the price of a new townhouse.

But County Executive Janet S. Owens said yesterday that she doubted the increase would be that high for "pragmatic" reasons. Any increase would need approval of the County Council.

Still, she left no doubt that she expects a 16-member committee she appointed to explore the issue to suggest the first increase in the fees since they were instituted in 1987. A report is due in early September.

"I can't believe they won't come back with some increase," Owens said.

The current impact fee for new single-family homes is $2,629; that would rise to $11,394 under the consultant's report. The fee for a townhouse, now $1,839, would jump to $9,954.

An official with the Home Builders Association of Maryland called yesterday the recommendations "eye-popping" and said the higher fees would make "starter homes" unaffordable.

"When you're talking about a townhouse market, which is generally a starter market, to bring it up to $9,000 would squeeze a lot of people out of homeownership," said the association's Susan Davies.

Owens shares that concern and said she does not want to make it difficult for teachers, firefighters and others earning similar incomes to buy homes.

Davies said she has not read the report, prepared by James C. Nicholas and released yesterday. But she said she is pleased her organization has a voice on the committee.

The panel, headed by St. John's College President Christopher Nelson, held its first meeting yesterday. In his report, Nicholas said the proposed fees are appropriate based on the impact of new development on the county. "This is simply one means of privatizing what previously had been public costs," he said.

In addition to suggesting higher costs, Nicholas proposes factoring in the cost of libraries, parks and public safety for the first time. But schools and roads, the only factors currently used, would account for the vast majority of the impact fee for every building category.

Inflation accounts for a small part of the recommended increase. If the fees were adjusted just for inflation, they would rise by about $1,000 for both single-family houses and townhouses.

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