Wicomico County Council repeals impact fees

 

Ending weeks of deliberation, the Wicomico County Council has repealed impact fees, with assurance that schools will continue to funded.

Money from the fees – about $5,400 per home – has traditionally been earmarked for schools, but Council President John Cannon said the county will still be able to sustain them.

County Executive Bob Culver, too, has said schools won’t be forgotten.

At the Nov. 1 meeting, all Council members voted in favor of the repeal, except Councilman Ernie Davis.

“We repealed the entire piece of legislation,” Cannon said.

Last month, there was discussion about whether or not the entire section of the county code referring to impact fees should be deleted, or if it should be left intact and the impact fee charge set to zero.

“I have been in favor of this. I wanted to make this adjustment in my first term in office and I’m glad we’ve done this,” Cannon said about the abolition of fees.

“It was somewhat detrimental to the building industry and not fair to individuals as a whole. For example, Councilman (Marc) Kilmer said he and his wife didn’t have to pay an impact fee because they bought a home from another individual. That doesn’t make it fair for someone who wants to buy a newly built home.

“It’s not fair, especially with sprinklers now being required in new construction. It makes it too expensive for buyers,” Cannon said.

Also, he said, the Best Available Technology, or BAT, septic systems matter hasn’t yet been settled and could further increase the cost of new construction.

In 2012, the state mandated septic systems be installed on new construction, or on any replacement septic system. In August, Gov. Larry Hogan announced his administration would lift that requirement everywhere, except in environmentally sensitive critical areas.

“We have new impediments to single-family housing now with (required) sprinklers and the BAT system unit. Even though the governor has given relief with regard to BAT, the Maryland legislature could reconsider it,” Strausburg said.

Culver told the Salisbury Independent he is pleased with the repeal.

“After four years of pushing to remove the impact fees from a County Council seat, as well as the executive’s office, I am pleased the Council voted to remove the impact fees and recognized the removal is an encouragement to the construction industry that will stimulate both employment and growth,” Culver said.

In three years, taxes paid by new county residents will make up the amount of the initial impact fee, he said.

“And taxes are reoccurring forever and ever. I’d rather have them build here and let me recoup the taxes year after year,” Culver said.

“If we really needed impact fees, I would be the first one to suggest it, but we don’t. We have our strongest savings account, our largest employment. We’re going to have a great number going to the bond hearing. But that doesn’t mean we will spend like drunken sailors,” he said.

At last month’s meeting, County Administrator Wayne Strausburg spoke in favor of repealing impact fees, saying the question is whether or not the fees would be imposed if they were newly introduced today, and not 10 years ago when the economic climate was different and the mantra was, “growth has to pay for growth.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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