County executive to propose rise in impact fees in Anne Arundel

50 percent increase recommended by panel needs council approval

November 07, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The basic cost of a new home in Anne Arundel County could increase if County Council members vote to bump up fees paid by homebuilders.

After a year of study and intense debate, County Executive Janet S. Owens said yesterday that she would introduce legislation to increase development impact fees by 50 percent at a council meeting Nov. 19.

The proposed increase in impact fees, recommended to Owens by a panel of builders, residents and business owners, would mark the first restructuring since the fees were introduced in 1987 as a way to cover costs for new roads and schools arising from fast-paced home construction.

For a detached single-family home, the panel suggested an increase from $2,629 per house to $4,069, beginning July 2002. In later years, fees would be adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation. These costs probably would be passed along to homebuyers.

The panel's recommended jump is far smaller than the quadrupling urged by a consultant hired by the county to examine the fees. Consultant James C. Nicholas recommended a fee of $11,394 per single-family house.

Reaction to Owens' proposal has been positive but cautious.

Representatives of homebuilding and business groups say they are pleased with the panel's recommendation, but leery of the timing of the legislation.

Business leaders recently asked the Owens administration to hold off on the bill in light of a skittish economy.

"Given the current economic situation and all that has happened in the past six weeks, the chamber asked the county executive to wait [until after] the first of the year," said Bob Burdon, president and chief executive officer of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce. "Nonetheless, the chamber supports the recommendations."

Owens said yesterday that the last thing she wants to do is "destabilize" local businesses. She said she wants to be sure developers shoulder their share of road and school improvements.

Councilman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. said he worries that a drastic increase in impact fees, such as the one suggested by the consultant, would make affordable housing more scarce.

"The thing that bothers me the most is, who is paying the freight of this - the homebuyer," he said. "Whatever we do, the builder is going to add it to the price of the house."

Debate on the legislation is sure to be intense. "We don't want to rush to judgment," Klosterman said.

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