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County won't license home builders locally

March 02, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners have decided for financial and legal reasons not to have the county take on local licensing for home builders, County Attorney Richard Douglas said Thursday.

The commissioners could change their stance later, depending on what happens with related state legislation, Douglas said.

"It's a wait-and-see, not a final decision," he said.

The issue was discussed and decided by consensus in closed session Feb. 22, Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said Wednesday. The meeting was closed because the commissioners were receiving legal advice, he said.

It was decided not to enact a law because it would cost the county more than $100,000 for personnel, Iseminger said.

There also were questions about whether the county had legal authority to have a law as strict as a proposed statewide licensing bill, Commissioner William J. Wivell said.

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They also were hesitant to adopt an ordinance when there have been fewer than five reported problems with home builders in about the last two years, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

The commissioners asked in a Feb. 29 letter to the local delegation that Washington County not be exempted from two similar proposed state laws.

Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, said Thursday he will remove the county exemption from a bill he is co-sponsoring.

The commissioners' move frustrates Washington County Home Builders Association members who had lobbied for local licensing, association Executive Vice President Debi Turpin said.

Association members worked with the county to try to get a local ordinance drafted and passed, she said.

The association is endorsing Donoghue's bill, but it preferred a local law because consumers would get better and faster enforcement, Turpin said.

The Maryland General Assembly gave the County Commissioners authority last year to license home builders locally.

The County Commissioners decided in January to delay action until they saw the outcome of two statewide bills that would license or register home builders statewide.

After meeting with association members and the local delegation, Snook said in mid-February the commissioners were leaning toward moving ahead with local licensing even though Permits and Inspections Director Paul Prodonovich said at the time that the move could cost the county about $110,000 in the first year.

In closed session last week, Douglas told the commissioners that if the county wanted to adopt its own local licensing, under one of the two state bills, it probably would have to pass a law that was "substantially equivalent" to the state legislation.

But the county, since it has the county commissioner form of government, is limited to the terms of the enabling law, which does not give the county the legal authority to go as far as would be needed to match the state law, Douglas said.

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