Pro­posed im­pact fee dis­cussed at pub­lic hear­ing

Times-Record - - NEWS - By ABBY AN­DREWS aan­drews@car­o­line­times­

DEN­TON — A pub­lic hear­ing on a pro­posed change to the way Caro­line County re­coups the cost to build in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port new res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment gar­nered a small but strong re­sponse.

The two pro­posed bills, both in­tro­duced at the Caro­line County com­mis­sion­ers’ Tues­day, Aug. 28, would re­peal the cur­rent ex­cise tax on new res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment, and re­place it with an im­pact fee, specif­i­cally to fund new school school con­struc­tion.

Cur­rently, the county only col­lects a $5,000 ex­cise tax when a lot is created, not when a struc­ture is built.

The im­pact fee pro­posed to re­place that tax would also be $5,000, but would al­low the county to bill all new res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion, in­clud­ing multi-unit build­ings, in both in­cor­po­rated and un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas, more uni­formly and fairly, county staff said.

At the pub­lic hear­ing, held dur­ing the com­mis­sion­ers’ meet­ing Tues­day, Sept. 11, Bob Chapel, of Ridgely, said he sup­ported re­peal­ing the ex­cise tax, but he did not sup­port en­act­ing the im­pact fee.

Chapel said he once served as a coun­cil­man for a city in Wash­ing­ton when it was be­ing pres­sured by the lo­cal school dis­trict to en­act an im­pact fee on new homes.

“The fees never add up to the cost of a new school, but it has a real im­pact on the guy pay­ing those fees,” Chapel said.

Chapel said, after look­ing over records of re­cent con­struc­tion in Caro­line County, the big­gest year was 2015, when the county col­lected $179,000 in ex­cise taxes.

“It’s not a sig­nif­i­cant pud­dle of money that would ac­cu­mu­late,” Chapel said. “You would have to set the fee at $50,000 to make a dif­fer­ence.”

What it will do, Chapel said, is hurt af­ford­able hous­ing avail­abil­ity, both apart­ments and sin­gle-fam­ily homes.

Own­ers of ren­tal prop­er­ties will fold the im­pact fee into the rents they charge, Chapel said. Home buy­ers could add the fee to their mort­gage, but that could make it more dif­fi­cult to get a mort­gage, es­pe­cially for first­time buy­ers.

“Im­pact fees en­cour­age dis­tor­tion in the mar­ket and make it im­pos­si­ble to af­ford a new house,” Chapel said.

The only other pub­lic com­ment came from Sue Simmons, di­rec­tor of the Caro­line County De­part­ment of Recreation and Parks, who sug­gested look­ing into a for­mula like Queen Anne’s County uses, that takes into ac­count square footage, as op­posed to the pro­posed flat fee, so some­one build­ing a man­sion pays more than some­one build­ing a small rancher.

“That could ad­dress the af­ford­able hous­ing ques­tion,” Simmons said.

The com­mis­sion­ers were sched­uled to dis­cuss pos­si­ble amend­ments to the im­pact fee bill at a work ses­sion Tues­day, Sept. 18, be­fore bring­ing the bills back for a third read­ing and po­ten­tial amend­ment and adop­tion at a fu­ture reg­u­lar meet­ing.

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