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Builder says fee is 'too much'

October 28, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Builder Gene Albert on Monday night asked some Washington County Commissioners to think about how they would feel if government were to levy a new tax on industries close to them.

He asked, for example, what if the pet cemetery industry were faced with a new tax or if a new fee were levied on the cost of a barbecue sandwich.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook owns a pet cemetery and Commissioner James F. Kercheval owns a barbecue restaurant.

"It hits home. I want you to think about it if it were you," said Albert, speaking at a public hearing at the Washington County Courthouse. "To ask one industry to (bear) that is just too much."

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Albert was one of several people to speak out against proposed changes to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO), which would force the building industry to pay a fee to cover some of the costs of residential growth.

The revisions could result in developers and builders paying $6,500 per dwelling unit if they build in areas where elementary schools are at 85 percent capacity.

Those fees would go toward adding classrooms to schools and other repairs to ensure schools can handle growth.

The money from the APFO fee would help the School Board make the necessary improvements to accommodate growth, school officials have said.

Snook said the changes, if adopted, would apply to schools in Washington County, not in the municipalities. He said the commissioners would like to meet with municipalities and ask them to adopt similar ordinances.

If adopted countywide, 21 of the 25 elementary schools would be considered to be at 85 percent capacity, Board of Education Director of Facilities Management Dennis McGee said last week.

Of the approximately 50 people who attended the public hearing, 11 voiced their concerns. About half spoke in favor of the proposed revisions, while the remainder opposed the changes.

"I think it's something that is needed for the community, and I think it should be adopted," said resident James DeVine.

County Director of Public Works Gary Rohrer said a goal of the proposed revisions is to lower class size in Washington County Public Schools.

He said that under the proposal, class size would drop in elementary schools from 25 students per class to 21 students per class.

School Board Chief Operating Officer William Blum thanked the commissioners for considering the revisions, saying that it costs about $23,000 to educate a new student.

He said developers "might cry foul" over being charged the fee, but that building a home in Washington County would still cost less than building one in neighboring Frederick County, Md.

Albert and others in the home building industry said the fee would hurt small builders.

"What you're killing is the local industry - the local small builder," Albert said.

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