Sudden Impact: Owens' Building Fee Hike A Winner

Driving Southern Maryland roads can be an awakening. Outside of Annapolis or any town, new subdivisions climb hills and consume valleys like modern-day Gold Rush settlements.

In the country, what's left of it, you'd think from all the dirt mounds that giant moles are making mischief. We could be so lucky. What we're seeing out there and down there are houses, mansions and ranchettes rising on land where trees and crops used to sprout.

All of this is wonderful - if you're in the housing business or you're a soon-to-be Baysider anticipating your new surroundings. But there's a price for this bonanza that all of us will be paying for a long time, and not just in a diminished environment.

The impact on schools, roads and public services is something we all must bear, and that's why Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens was thinking straight the other day when she mentioned that she may seek increases in the "impact fees" paid for new developments.

Right now, those fees are as follows:

(If you ask why townhouses and apartments are less expensive, it's because denser development in some ways has less impact.)

Owens, in effect, was floating a trial balloon on the possibility of increasing the impact fees. She can't do it by herself; she would need to persuade the county council.

We think it's a good idea for a couple of reasons: First, higher building costs could have the effect of discouraging construction and, hopefully, some of the builders who take short cuts.

Second, we need the money. In a county with a revenue cap, it is becoming increasingly difficult providing all the services people demand, not to mention buying the land that people want to preserve.

We think this trial balloon floats nicely and ought to fly. If a new fee structure is drawn fairly, it can benefit both land and people.

But it is just one step. We must keep in mind that Southern Maryland's character will be defined in the new millennium by the explosion of development we are seeing right now. It would be wrong to try to close the door to growth. But it is the right of people already living here to define how we grow.

| Issue 14 |

Volume VII Number 14
April 8-14, 1999
New Bay Times

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