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County wants more data on impact fees

February 10, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday remained noncommittal on the issue of impact fees and a Hopewell Valley assessment district, after hearing a consultant explain why the fees might be a good way for the county to pay for future growth.

"I don't think any of us are ready to commit to it without more knowledge," said Commissioner Paul L. Swartz.

Swartz led Tuesday's meeting in the absence of Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, who was at a meeting in Washington, D.C.

"We are going to have impact fees. It is just a matter of when," Commissioner John L. Schnebly said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell said he opposes any new taxes, including impact fees. He would prefer cutting county services to imposing new taxes, but said he does not know yet which services he would eliminate.

The prior County Commissioners paid Paul Tischler, owner of Tischler and Associates, Inc. of Bethesda, Md., $115,000 to write a study calculating the cost of growth for the county and to recommend new fees or taxes to help offset those costs. A $40,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant helped pay for the study.

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Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger could not be reached for comment after the meeting. While he was chairman of the Washington County Planning Commission, he had urged the then- County Commissioners to consider assessing impact fees.

Iseminger said that impact fees are a logical extension of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The ordinance requires developers to provide information showing adequate road, water, sewage and schools capacity before a project can be approved. The developer must contribute toward any needed improvement.

The Maryland General Assembly in 1990 gave the county authority to impose impact fees, but the commissioners did not adopt any such fees.

Iseminger asked for Tischler to make a similar presentation to the Washington County Planning Commission so the commissioners could get its feedback on the issue.

Tischler and Associates has done similar studies and reports in most of the 10 Maryland counties, including Frederick and Carroll counties, that have impact fees.

Impact fees require new development to pay for the costs of new roads, schools and services required to serve that development.

Tischler said the number of counties with assessment districts and impact fees has increased in recent years, partially because the federal government has reduced the amount of money it gives local governments to pay for projects.

"Taxpayers don't understand that," he said.

He said, however, that "Impact fees are becoming more accepted over time."

The report does not recommend a specific amount for each of the three recommended impact fees - school construction, public works equipment replacement and law enforcement vehicle replacement - but rather lists the maximum legal amount the county could charge.

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