Impact fees on developers are supposed to take effect in Baltimore County July 1. But County Councilman Julian Jones, citing COVID-19 issues, is proposing legislation that would delay the implementation of the fees for three months.
That is not sitting well with the Councilman David Marks and County Executive Johnny Olszewski, both of whom proposed impact fee legislation last year.
The fees were controversial when the council debated them. The money will be used to help pay for things like roads and schools affected by a development.
Councilman Jones, a Democrat, said the three month delay is needed because there are bottlenecks in the real estate industry. Things that used to take weeks are now taking months.
“Various engineering firms and surveying firms are not operating at their fullest capacity,” Jones said. “We’re recognizing all of the problems that are out there and we’re trying to help every small business in any way we can.”
But Republican Councilman David Marks, who proposed the impact fee last year, questioned why developers should get special treatment when other businesses, as well as families, are struggling with the impacts of the coronavirus.
“I think adopting this legislation is very tone deaf,” Marks said. “I think many people will be angry if we provide this type of special treatment.”
Marks said developers already got a break from the council, because when members passed the impact fee last year, they amended his original legislation to put off its implementation until this July. Marks wanted the impact fee in place last year.
“We’ve already lost millions of dollars that could be helping us right now during this current economic condition,” Marks said.
When the legislation was debated last year, developers warned impact fees would increase the cost of homes for buyers. Supporters countered that developers have not been paying their fair share of the cost of their projects on the county, particularly when it comes to crowded schools.
Sean Naron, Olszewski’s press secretary, said in a statement to WYPR, “At a time when this pandemic has already devastated our fiscal outlook, it’s disappointing that Councilman Jones is attempting to use this crisis to keep new developments from helping pay for our schools and roads. This is absolutely the last thing we should be considering.”
Jones said they should make sure developments in Baltimore County can move forward.
“This is just trying to make sure that as we come out of this economic crisis that we’re in, that we don’t have the brakes on anywhere," he said.