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Property owners may get more time to pay developers fee

February 10, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Property owners who would like to subdivide their land into a few lots but have difficulty affording a new Washington County fee to do so might get more time to pay the charge.

The fee, part of the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, charges developers about $7,355 per home if they're building in areas where elementary schools are at 85 percent capacity or higher.

The revenue from the fees goes toward construction projects to increase school capacity, including building schools or adding classrooms.

The Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance helps ensure roads, schools and other infrastructure are adequate to handle growth.

Director of Public Works Gary Rohrer said Monday he's heard some concerns about the fee from property owners seeking minor subdivisions - those which are five lots or less.

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"I understand how they feel," Rohrer said. "In all honesty, they don't think of themselves as developers, but in effect, they really are."

Rohrer said the Washington County Commissioners will consider giving property owners with minor subdivision plans the ability to pay the fees when they decide to build homes on the properties.

Currently, property owners must pay the fee when they receive final plat approval, Commissioner James F. Kercheval said Monday.

"I think there's support on that," Kercheval said of the time extension.

The Washington County Planning Commission last week decided to table votes on several subdivision plans to which the fee would apply until it received further direction from the county.

Ben Martin, who wants to subdivide about 18 acres on the south side of Spielman Road, west of Sharpsburg Pike, said the fee is too high.

He also said he shouldn't have to pay the charge because he submitted his plan in August 2003, which was before the commissioners adopted the fee.

"This is something that came into effect after my subdivision was already in the process," Martin said.

Martin plans to subdivide the property, known as Pashen Estates, into four lots.

He said he shouldn't have to pay the fee until he builds on the property, not at the time of final plat approval. He said he may wait several years after receiving final plat approval before building a house on a subdivided lot.

"I should have the opportunity to pay when a building is going on it and not just a field sitting there," Martin said.

Kercheval said the commissioners will consider different options for property owners seeking minor subdivisions.

"Our goal isn't to put undue pressure on anybody," Kercheval said. "It's just to try to pay for the schools when we need them."

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