Arundel group wants refunds from county

Homeowners sue over impact fees

officials deny money is due

January 02, 2004|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

After a legal victory last month, lawyers representing a group of Anne Arundel County homeowners say that as many as 40,000 residents will soon be entitled to partial refunds of fees paid to the county government.

In advance of a Jan. 16 hearing, lawyers from both sides are trying to determine how many tens of millions of dollars will be at stake when the class action case goes to trial. Lawyers from both sides say a trial is likely before summer.

But county officials say it's premature to count on refunds.

"I'm not conceding there is any money due," said Senior Assistant County Attorney William D. Evans Jr.

Homeowners represented by attorneys Phillip F. Scheibe and John R. Greiber Jr. contend that the county has improperly spent some impact fees - charges levied to pay for infrastructure improvements to accommodate growth - and has held some collected money for too long.

For example, Scheibe and Greiber say, spending money on portable classrooms does not qualify as a proper use of the fee.

When asked how much money the county might have to refund, Scheibe said, "The best I can tell you is it's a substantial sum of money and that's as far as I want to go right now."

Evans could not give a figure. "I'm not sure how much is on the table. ... I don't know," he said.

Anne Arundel County approved impact fees in 1987. At issue are fees that may have been misspent or held too long. The county must use money collected from impact fees within a prescribed period of time for purposes such as increasing the capacity of schools and roads.

"I think it's important that people understand all the monies have gone for roads or schools," Evans said. "The plaintiffs take issue with where they've been spent, but in any event, they've all been spent on roads and schools."

For a single-family home, the county's impact fee has increased over the years from $877 to more than $4,000. Scheibe said developers pass on those fees to the homebuyers, and the current owners would be entitled to the refunds.

The lawsuit bears the name of homeowners from a section of Seven Oaks, a planned community near Odenton, but Scheibe and Greiber say they represent any homeowner in a house that had its impact fee misused.

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