Ernie Colburn: Perhaps best to extend impact fee moritorium

There are a couple of things on the radar screen of the Chamber. One is the “Development Impact Fee” and the second is the “Enterprise Zone Expansion.”

First, let’s look at the Impact Fee. Since its inception in 1992, this fee was established as a supplemental fee to help fund education in Wicomico County. Over the years, the fees collected amount to less than 1 percent of the Board of Education’s spending.

Basically the fee was on residential homes, not commercial. An amount was collected as a “building permit” on residential single family detached homes at $5,231 and other residential (per dwelling unit) of $1,524.

A couple of years ago, the County Council placed a moratorium on this bill with the hope to spark construction in the county.  However, with state septic bill legislation (BAT-Best Available Technology) adding $10,000 to $20,000 to cost of building a new home and  the mandatory sprinkler system measures adding another $5,000 to $12,000 to the cost, these two obstacles pretty much neutralized any positive effects from the Impact Fee.

There is talk in Annapolis of relaxing the septic bill and maybe Round 2 on the passage of the sprinkler bill could get reconfigured. We’ll see come January and the General Assembly 2017 session.

So the current moratorium on the Impact Fee in Wicomico County expires Dec. 31. This will probably be on the County Council’s agenda later this month for a vote.

There are several options available for the council to consider:

Extend the moratorium another two years, expiring Dec. 31, 2018.

Voting to totally repeal the Impact Fee.

Simply tabling the repeal and bring back up at a later date and time.

My guess is the council will “repeal” the entire bill, period.

Remember, once you repeal, you will never get it back again if needed. The council simply won’t vote to reinstate.

That being said, there’s some credence in considering “vote to extend the moratorium another two years with a Dec. 31, 2018, sunset date.” It doesn’t hurt to leave the legislative bill on the books.

At least you’d have it in your “hip pocket” in case the revenue is needed. Otherwise, every two years, the council can spend five minutes in discussion and 15 seconds to vote to “roll the impact fee over another two years.”

Enterprise Zone Expansion

Recently, County Executive Bob Culver approached Salisbury-Wicomico County Planning & Zoning, inquiring about expanding the current Salisbury-Wicomico Enterprise Zone to include the airport.

After various discussions, it was determined that the zone could be expanded to include the county airport.

The Chamber feels this is a “smart move.”

You expand the existing zone by an additional 1,000 acres, but more importantly, the Enterprise Zone offers two tax credits — a property tax credit and an income tax credit.

To receive these credits in the Enterprise Zone, there are two caveats:

You must create at least two or more full-time jobs.

Your investment of a minimum of $50,000 in capital improvements.

The city and county are working together to bring city water to the airport. This is critical to the future growth and development of the airport.

Once the airport gets off its current well-water system and onto city water, construction of larger shell buildings or hangars of greater than 10,000 square feet could be constructed and meet fire suppression/sprinkler system code

Shell buildings can then be built with taxiways to the front door. Potential corporate opportunities of expansion and use of the airport by companies based at Wallops Island Facility.

Access to city water will further improve our already great relationship with Piedmont Airlines, which is based at the airport, and support its possible future expansion.

The county is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to “fast track” adding 600 feet to the airport’s primary runway, all to accommodate American Airlines passenger jets taking off in certain weather conditions with a full load.

The bottom line: This is smart to include the airport and Mount Hermon and Airport Road approaches in the expanded Enterprise Zone.

The City Council and County Council have voted in favor of the expansion, thus enabling the Salisbury-Wicomico County Planning & Zoning to meet the Maryland Department of Commerce deadline of Oct. 15.

Ernie Colburn is President and CEO of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.

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