Bill could allow developers to pay over time

March 22, 2009|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

Anne Arundel County developers might soon be able to pay facility connection charges over a five-year period, if an emergency bill introduced to the County Council is approved.

The bill, for which the council heard testimony at its Monday meeting, would allow annual installment payments for capital facility connection charges, to be paid out over the five years after the fees are due, with 8 percent interest.

Robert Loomis, assistant director for public works, told the council that developers need some relief during a tough economy.

"The home-building business is in the toilet. ... There's no one making loans; there's no one buying houses," Loomis told the council.

"We recognized they're a force in the economic development of the county."

Currently, 31 developers in the county are delinquent, meaning they could face a tax sale in June.

In Anne Arundel tax sales, the county sells liens on properties. To have liens removed, property owners must pay all outstanding fees and charges plus interest and penalties.

"We're trying to avoid that as much as possible," Loomis said of the tax sales.

The Department of Public Works chose an 8 percent interest rate to encourage developers to find other financial sources, as the county incurs risk by allowing the annual payments, rather than requiring a lump sum.

"We want to be the bank of last resort, not the bank of first resort," Loomis said.

Council Chairman Edward Reilly, who represents the southern district, proposed an amendment that would decrease the interest rate to 5 percent, but the council voted against it.

"I don't mind having a reasonable margin of additional interest to help cover our administrative costs," Reilly said during the meeting. "I'm trying to find that place where it's reasonable and it makes sense to all involved."

County Auditor Teresa Sutherland said she thought 5 percent was too low, and the county would assume the risk of being a financier.

The vote for the bill was held, and the council will hold a public hearing April 6. Because the bill was introduced as an emergency ordinance, it would go into effect five days after the county executive signs it, rather than the typical 45 days.

In other action, Councilmen Daryl Jones and C. Edward Middlebrooks introduced a bill that would change the requirements for towing. The bill would require those who "engage in police-initiated towing" or "non-consensual towing" to be licensed.

"Predatory towing has been an increasing problem" in the northern part of the county, said Jones, of Severn, who has heard constituents' concerns about towing for about a year and a half.

"[The bill] puts in place certain protections for the vehicle owners so they can find their vehicles when they've been towed."

Also at Monday's meeting, the council heard from the chairwoman of the Severn River Commission, who updated the council on a biannual report from the commission.

Lina Vlavianos told the council that one issue the commission noted in the report is that the river is not receiving "special attention" as one of the nine scenic rivers in the state.

"I personally am not satisfied with the way the scenic river has not been looked at more carefully," Vlavianos said.

Another concern the commission noted in the report was that the current draft of the General Development Plan would reduce the forest cover in the Severn River watershed from 33 percent to 6 percent.

"Something needs to be done to address that issue," she said.

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