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Commissioners approve fees on some new housing

December 17, 2003|by TARA REILLY

Developers who want to build homes in areas where schools are at 85 percent of capacity will have to pay thousands of dollars to Washington County beginning Jan. 1.

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously decided that developers will be charged about $6,500 per dwelling unit, money that will pay for projects that will increase capacity in schools, such as building new schools or additional classrooms.

The fee was approved as part of the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO). The ordinance ensures roads, schools and other infrastructure are adequate to handle growth.


The fee applies to new residential development, not commercial development.

The charge could bring in several hundred thousand to millions of dollars per subdivision, depending on how many dwelling units a development would contain, county officials have said.

Washington County Board of Education members have endorsed the fee, saying many schools lack the capacity to accommodate enrollment growth.

Debi Turpin, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Washington County, said she thought developers would tack the fee on to the price of homes.

The increase might make buying new homes unaffordable for median income families, she said.

With the schools fee and other APFO fees already approved in some areas to pay for road improvements, she said the cost of a home might increase by as much as $12,000.

"That's a lot of money," Turpin said. "The cost of housing just continues to increase."

In October, the commissioners voted to levy a $5,445 per dwelling unit APFO fee on commercial and residential development in the area of Robinwood and Mount Aetna drives and Mount Aetna Road.

In addition, developers in the Maugans Avenue and Long Meadow Road area will have to pay a $6,000 APFO fee for road improvements.

That fee will be charged based on each automobile trip a residential or commercial development is expected to generate during certain hours. The number of trips is based on a county calculation.

Turpin said the organization doesn't necessarily agree with the schools APFO fee, which she called a tax, but said she thinks the commissioners satisfactorily addressed its concerns before approving it.

She said those concerns dealt with how the money generated from the fee would be spent and whether smaller developers would have the same opportunity as larger developers to build homes in areas where schools are at 85 percent of capacity.

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