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Baltimore County councilman wants to delay new fees on development

Baltimore County Councilman Julian Jones wants the council to consider delaying new impact fees on homebuilders and other developers two months before the county was to begin charging the fees.

Jones introduced the bill at the council’s virtual meeting Monday night. He said companies are worried they will be unable to meet the July 1 deadline for collections due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The proposal comes as the county anticipates revenues to drop by $270 million by the end of the budget year beginning July 1. Sean Naron, a spokesman for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., called the proposal “the last thing” the county should consider.

“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,” Naron said in a statement. “The County Executive remains focused on what really matters: keeping our residents safe and healthy while providing direct assistance to our small businesses.”

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Until last year, Baltimore County was the only suburban county in the Baltimore area without so-called impact fees designed to help pay for roads, schools and the public costs of development. That changed after Olszewski, a Democrat, and Councilman David Marks, a Republican, introduced and passed legislation to create new fees on development as the county faced a projected budget shortfall. Fourteen other Maryland counties also impose impact fees to help pay for improving infrastructure and building schools and libraries.

But the pandemic has forced many private companies to close or alter the way they do business at a “great economic expense,” according to Jones’ bill. The Woodstock Democrat said real estate developers are experiencing a “bottleneck” because workers are either sick or at home, prolonging the duration of engineering and surveying work, for instance.

“The bottom line is we really need to do everything in our power to keep business going and to really jump start the economy when this thing is over,” Jones said. “I don’t think it’s going to be over for some time, but this is probably not the time to do anything that would slow anybody down."

The proposed bill would delay the collection of impact fees on new construction for residential and nonresidential projects until October 1, rather than July 1.

The County Council is scheduled to discuss the legislation at a 2 p.m. work session on May 26, and vote on June 1. The meetings will be held online.

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