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City mulls restriction on new home construction

June 15, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday to introduce legislation restricting the amount of new home construction in the city, even though they will not be in a position at that time to adopt the adequate public facilities ordinance (APFO).

"I think if we introduce the ordinances next week ... it keeps the process moving," City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said during the council's work session Tuesday. "It doesn't take effect until you actually vote to adopt the ordinance."

In the spring, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law letting counties change the way they collect excise taxes for new development. As a result, the Washington County Commissioners are considering several revisions to the Building Excise Tax Ordinance, including charging a higher tax for residential construction in subdivisions in certain areas consisting of more than 25 units.


The County Commissioners have proposed charging $26,000 per single-family home and $31,000 per multifamily unit in subdivisions of more than 25 units and in areas where schools are at or above 85 percent capacity.

In other instances, the excise tax would remain at $13,000 per single-family unit and $15,500 per multifamily unit, according to the proposed revisions.

The commissioners voted 4-0 on Tuesday to take the revisions to a public hearing scheduled for June 21.

Other revisions include exempting from the tax construction in the City of Hagers-town's C3 and Conversion overlay zoning districts.

The city may collect a portion of the county's excise tax, estimated to be as much as $1.8 million between July 1 and Dec. 31, but must adopt its own APFO in order to take part. By doing so, the county's legislation blocks developers from building new homes in areas where there is not enough school capacity. Since many of the county's schools in Hagerstown are confronted by over-capacity issues, several city council members believe opting into the tax will essentially bring new development in Hagerstown to a halt.

Councilman Lew Metzner said there are several development projects in the city that would not be influenced by either the county's legislation or the city's. He said he believes that by the time the current development projects in the city are completed, the county's school system should have upgraded its facilities in order to accommodate additional projects.

"By the time the pipeline is cleared out, the schools will be on board," he said.

The council also could vote Tuesday on an annexation request by developer Kenneth Jordan, who hopes to build on 54 acres off Haven Road outside the city.

Staff writer Tara Reilly contributed to this story.

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