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City moves on impact fees

March 10, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday took steps toward setting fees that developers would pay to offset the impact of new buildings on city services and facilities.

At Tuesday's mayor and council meeting, the council gave preliminary approval for a Bethesda, Md., contractor to begin calculating the amounts at which impact fees could be set to raise money from new development to pay for such things as more police protection and road improvements.

During the meeting, Mayor William M. Breichner said the city should speed up efforts to put the fees in place.

"Each month (that) goes by, we lose more money. The sooner we get a program like this in place, the better we are," Breichner said.

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City managers have been discussing the idea of instituting an "adequate public facilities ordinance" or impact fees, which are two methods that can be used to raise money from new development.

As the city faces increased development - with 3,000 new housing units planned - officials say there needs to be a better way to raise money.

Officials said new development doesn't always pay for areas the new construction will affect.

For instance, the city recently came up with a plan to raise money from developers along Eastern Boulevard to widen that road to handle the amount of projected traffic that will result from construction along the roadway.

That plan would charge $1,000 per housing unit and between $3 and $5 per square foot of office, retail and other types of uses to raise a total of $1.1 million for the estimated $2.4 million project.

Consultant Paul Tischler told the mayor and council Tuesday that in light of projected budget shortfalls in Hagerstown of between $2 million and $4.4 million in coming years, impact fees would help pay for new facilities and free up existing funds.

Tischler said it will take four months to prepare a list of fees, including those that would pay for parks and recreation, roads, police and other city facilities such as buildings and vehicles. It is estimated the study will cost $65,300.

Tischler said governments facing budget shortfalls usually cut back on capital spending, such as road repairs and park maintenance, instead of cutting jobs and services.

Hagerstown city officials have estimated the city will face a $1.75 million shortfall in the next fiscal year's budget, and are considering some of those measures to close the gap.

Tischler's recommendation did not include fire and rescue services and schools. Breichner said it would be difficult to assess an impact fee for fire services, but called for more discussion on impact fees for schools.

City Finance Director Alfred Martin said he would schedule discussions on school impact fees with Washington County officials.

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