Building fees could increase by $1,000

Money is needed to pay for services strained by growth, officials say

May 22, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

To keep pace with the cost of providing city services to a growing population, Westminster officials have proposed increasing capital assessment fees on residential and commercial development by $1,000.

"We're asking the people responsible for the growth of the city to pay the cost of the growth," said Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro, chairman of the council's finance committee. "You don't ask current residents to shoulder all the burden. Those who want to relocate should pay their fair share."

Under the proposal, the Special Capital Benefit Assessment - a one-time charge - on a new home would increase from $1,100 to $2,100. New commercial construction up to 5,000 square feet would pay the same fee.

Structures larger than 5,000 square feet would pay 32 cents to 42 cents a square foot, depending on overall size.

The increase is the most significant since the fee was established in 1988, Westminster officials said. The fee was set at $700 and has been increased in increments of $100 since then.

The fee covers the cost of capital improvement projects, including street widening, park expansions, recreation services and additional city staff to handle the needs of a growing population.

Last month, city officials conducted a cost analysis of parks and recreation services, municipal facilities, major equipment and road repairs that are paid for by the assessment and developed a revised fee schedule.

The Common Council introduced an ordinance outlining the new fees at its meeting May 13. The council could take final action as early as June 24.

"If the city is going to provide services, money has to come from somewhere," said Steve Meszaros, president of Carroll County Association of Realtors. "You certainly don't want to raise taxes, so the alternative are these fees."

The city, however, did raise property taxes by 4.8 cents for the next fiscal year. That move also was made to raise additional revenue to meet spending needs.

Revenue from the increase in capital assessment fees is not included in the city's budget for fiscal 2003, which begins July 1. It would be included in the city's spending plan for fiscal 2004.

Meszaros said he doesn't think new homebuyers will think twice about paying the fee because most pay more than list price for their homes.

"In this market, to get the house you want, you're going to have to pay to play," he said. "The infrastructure in a county like Carroll is expensive. Things are spread out, not clustered like in cities. Westminster's is old and needs to be constantly updated and repaired."

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