SALISBURY – The Wicomico County Council will bring development impact fees to a vote after members agreed to advance the proposed repeal Tuesday.
Councilmembers voted 7-0 to move the repeal forward for a final vote at a public hearing in an October meeting, where discussions will precede the decision.
The repeal will take 60 days to pass if the councilmembers vote in favor.
This news comes after proposals from County Executive Bob Culver to repeal impact fees in an effort to stimulate new home construction and economic growth.
Councilmembers agreed to place a moratorium on impact fees through 2016, but have since opened the proposal for discussion.
“Today was a vote to move it forward, but it looks favorable,” Culver says. “It looks like it may be a 6-1 vote in end.”
Culver thinks the outcome will be to the residents’ advantage.
“If it all hits off at the right timing, we will repeal it before the moratorium ends,” Culver says “Hopefully, people won’t have to pay a fee starting at the beginning of next year.”
Councilman John Hall says he questions eliminating impact fees, which are dedicated to the county’s school system.
He says research from a 2002 study suggests the fee’s amount equals the potential buyer’s impact on the county’s services.
“The fees are still going to impact tax payers,” Hall says. “The real question is should the tax payer or the contractor pay the fee? I think the contractor should pay.”
In their Sept. 6 council meeting, members said a lack of changes in school enrollment numbers may not justify the need for impact fees. However, school enrollment in the county increased for the current school year.
Currently, those building new homes in the county will pay more than $5,000 in impact fees, a figure which makes up 3 percent of the county’s median home price.
At the last council meeting, councilmembers and supporters of the repeal argued that eliminating the fee will remove one-third of a percent from the annual revenue budget.
The Coastal Association of Realtors released a letter supporting Culver’s proposal, saying impact fees, in addition to costly sprinkler regulations, could incentivize potential buyers and home builders to move away or build elsewhere.
Culver took his lead to propose the repeal from Gov. Larry Hogan, who repealed regulations in August that required Best Available Technology (BAT) on all replaced or new septic systems, saving the owners more than $11,000.
Following the state, the Wicomico County Council now has the opportunity to control the outcome of the proposal.
Culver says he was thrilled to see home builders and other members of the public at the meeting Tuesday.
Although the proposed repeal was introduced and moved forward unanimously, Council President John Cannon says the vote may not be so easy in October.
Councilman Ernest Davis in particular questioned whether the county should redirect their efforts to economic growth as a whole, instead of focusing on impact fees, according to Cannon.
Davis was contacted several times and could not be reached for comment this week.
As the ongoing debate continues, Culver says he is excited for a resolution on the matter to come.
“I am anxiously waiting for the second meeting in October,” Culver says. “It is big news.”
The tentative date for the public hearing will be Oct. 18 at 10 a.m., according to the Wicomico County Council’s office.
The official date and times will be released to the public Oct. 3.