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Commissioners consider lower developers' fees

April 28, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The fees Washington County charges to developers to offset the cost of growth may be going down again.

County staff asked the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday to change the formula through which the fees are generated, a move that would lower the charge to developers.

The change would apply to the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) for schools, which requires residential developers to pay a $6,500 per unit fee if they build in areas where schools are at 85 percent capacity, County Attorney Richard Douglas said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the fee would be reduced but he didn't know by how much.

The APFO fees for schools pays for additional classrooms or new schools to accommodate growth.

The commissioners approved the fees in December 2003. They went into effect on Jan. 1.

The county also has an APFO fee for roads. Developers are charged to pay for road improvements to accommodate additional traffic.

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The total fee for roads varies and is based on the number of automobile trips generated by a particular residential or commercial development. The commissioners approved those fees late last year.

Earlier this month, the commissioners lowered a portion of the APFO fees for roads after a developer complained that a plan to erect an office building in the Maugansville area wouldn't be feasible because of a high fee.

Now, developers of office buildings pay 25 percent of the total fee.

The commissioners also are considering lowering the fees for warehouse and distribution centers, industrial and manufacturing companies and retail businesses.

Douglas said lowering the APFO fee for schools would be more fair to developers.

Currently, developers who build homes where one school in a particular school district is above capacity must pay fees based on the capacity of all the schools in that district.

For example, if an elementary school in a district has inadequate capacity but the middle and high schools have enough classroom space, the developer pays a fee for all three schools.

County staff proposes changing the formula so the developer pays a fee based only on the capacity of the school that doesn't have enough space.

Debi Turpin, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Washington County, said she supports a lowered fee.

She said a continual "increase of fees and taxes are hurting hard-working families."

Jim Laird, president of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County, said he didn't think the county would be able to keep up with growth in schools if the fee were lowered.

"It appears to me this (ordinance) is continuing to get weaker and weaker," Laird said.

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