The real impact of growth


IMPACT FEES don't cover the costs of development in Anne Arundel County. The county imposes the fees to offset the expense of schools and roads, but even developers acknowledge that the fees are so low that they don't nearly pay the growth tab.

Currently, the county charges homebuilders $2,629 for each new single-family home, $1,839 for each new townhouse and $1,331 for each new apartment unit. That may sound like a lot, but schools and roads to accommodate this construction cost far more than the roughly $10 million these fees generate a year. And impact fees don't include police protection, trash pickup and the other county services new communities need.

So County Executive Janet S. Owens is right to explore raising the county's impact fees for the first time since they went into effect a dozen years ago.

A consultant recommends multiplying county impact fees, pushing the amount for each single-family townhouse to $11,394. The consultant's recommendation reflects the real cost to the county of construction, a cost that falls on taxpayers. Ms. Owens has appointed a committee, which includes developers, to study the matter and issue its recommendation in two months.

The committee, headed by St. John's College President Christopher Nelson, is likely to recommend a smaller increase, but the panel must come up with a suggestion that puts impact fees considerably closer to the actual cost to government of development.

This is important for areas such as fast-growing western Anne Arundel, which will -- at some point -- require a new high school.

Ms. Owens talked about raising impact fees last year. She pointed out then that the county had desperate school construction and renovation needs to handle new students. This time she sounds determined to adjust the fees, and that's good. County Council members should get ready to lend their support.

It's only fair that builders bear the cost of necessary new services.


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