Wicomico Changes Stance On ‘Landmine’ Fee Requests

SALISBURY – Talks to waive certain fees for local nonprofits reached an unfavorable verdict in Wicomico County Tuesday, less than a month after officials brought forth discussions on the matter.

In an open work session of the Wicomico County Council Tuesday, Councilman Marc Kilmer presented councilmembers with ideas to draft a resolution that would waive building permit and tipping fees for smaller 501c3s, a process which he said would eliminate uncertainty.

The proposed resolution, however, generated a lively debate on the pitfalls of the aforementioned waiver.

Tuesday’s preliminary discussions were a response to a former request from Chesapeake Housing Mission officials, who were granted a building permit fee waiver in March to install wheelchair ramps at homes throughout Wicomico County.

At the March meeting, Kilmer expressed his interest in seeing a resolution that would encompass all small nonprofits, instead of just individual ones. Since that time, he has championed the initiative to form a broader waiver system.

“If crafted wrong, it can really go wrong,” he said.

According to Kilmer, the process nonprofits currently take to secure a fee waiver were complex and ambiguous, leading them on a goose chase of sorts only for their request to be potentially denied by the council. In producing a broader resolution to include all small, local nonprofits, Kilmer said certain organizations could skip the lengthy process altogether, saving them time and money.

He proposed placing a dollar limit on tipping and building permit fees and outlining eligibility requirements in the resolution.

“I think people should have some certainty,” Kilmer said. “Right now it’s up to the whims of us seven here on basically whether or not they get it. Sometimes they get the waiver, and sometimes they don’t. That does a disservice to people.”

Councilman John Hall, however, explained that drafting a resolution could limit the county’s ability to remain flexible with their requests.

“When you get into a more formal process where we obligate by having a resolution, there’s no flexibility,” he said.

Councilman Matt Holloway also expressed concerns about adding tipping fee waivers to the resolution, and said he was led to believe that the building permit fee waiver would only be for those nonprofits constructing wheelchair ramps.

Although Kilmer said the proposed ideas were merely examples, he told the council the two ideas could be a start in drafting a resolution.

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver said the resolution could pose a safety risk for those who benefit from the nonprofits’ services.

“When you start waiving fees, people don’t think things need to be inspected,” he said. “Even wheelchair ramps need to be inspected. They won’t be applying to the county and we won’t know what is being built.”

Holloway agreed.

“The last thing we need is a wheelchair ramp we approved that causes injury,” he said.

After hearing both sides, Council President John Cannon said the proposed legislation was more complex than he originally estimated.

“In looking at it, it seems like a real landmine,” he said.

A majority of councilmembers agreed that maintaining the current process would be best, but commended Kilmer for his initiative.

“I applaud your effort,” Councilman Larry Dodd said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.