County senators introduce tax-district legislation

Bill would permit levy of fees in strained areas

February 02, 2003|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Two state senators from Harford County have introduced legislation that would allow the County Council to consider special taxing districts in areas where development is straining infrastructure.

The bill, introduced at the request of County Executive James M. Harkins, would allow for special taxing districts - at the request of property owners - to collect fees that would pay for a broad range of services, from schools to water and sewer.

Sens. Nancy Jacobs and J. Robert Hooper, both Republicans, introduced the bill last week to meet Friday's Senate filing deadline for legislation. However, the move caught some members of the Harford delegation off guard.

"I'm a little surprised, because there's been no opportunity for a public hearing or public comment," said Democratic Del. Mary-Dulany James.

While deadlines are important in Annapolis, she said, the merits of the bill should be the top concern.

Harkins said his administration had been researching such fees since the fall elections, when impact fees were a central issue in the campaign. He called special taxing districts a "consensus" fee with "great utility" that homebuilders, businesses, activists and residents can agree on.

The county executive said any area in the county could be eligible for district designation, but not without the property owners' agreement.

Jacobs said the Perryman peninsula would likely be the first area considered for the district.

She said cuts in state transportation funding to counties made such a district attractive, because the peninsula area needs an estimated $100 million in road upgrades.

Council Vice President Lance C. Miller, a Republican, said some council members also were surprised by the bill's introduction, but that Harkins told him Friday that he would be meeting with members quickly on the measure.

"The council would be open to looking at anything that generates revenues or helps pay for infrastructure," he said.

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