Annapolis city council members are looking to boost fees that the city charges for mooring a boat and a variety of construction-related services, a move that already is drawing some protests from business owners even before the increases have been formally proposed.
Proponents of the fee increases contend they are necessary to keep up with costs of municipal services, and they point out some charges have not been changed in two decades.
"It's been years since fees were changed, that's why it appears to be so much," said Alderwoman Classie Gillis Hoyle, a Democrat representing Ward 3.
Alderman Julie N. Stankivic, a leading proponent of the increases, successfully passed legislation last year that required all department heads to review fees on a yearly basis.
Fee increases are proposed across the board for Department of Public Works services, and include plumbing permits, water and sewer connection fees, and fees relating to mooring, according to Stankivic.
Currently, restaurants pay annual fees of $182 for water and $364 for sewer, per seat. Stankivic said her plan calls for a "substantial increase" in those fees. Annual mooring permit fees are $500 for residents and $1,200 for nonresidents. "Our fees do not cover our costs," said Stankivic, an independent who represents Ward 6. "We're losing money. We are subsidizing those who use our services. That's not supposed to happen.
Mayor Ellen O. Moyer submitted her pending $81 million budget without any changes to the fee structure and is satisfied with the current rates, according to her spokesman.
Timothy Elliot, the city's finance director, said he has yet to review Stankivic's plan.
"There probably are fees that haven't been changed for 20 years," Elliott said. "But just because they haven't been changed in 20 years doesn't mean they need to be changed. I'm not sure there's justification."
Elliott said of Stankivic, "She talked like it's a done deal. It takes five votes."
Gavin Buckley, a co-owner of two Annapolis restaurants, spoke against the proposed increase in fees at Monday night's council meeting.
"They're already higher than everywhere else," said Buckley, who also owns restaurants elsewhere in Anne Arundel County and in Baltimore City. "We have this very unusual beast in this historic city. You have to be flexible if you want development. I'm not saying you shouldn't pay a fee, but it discourages people to do business if their costs triple or quadruple."
Buckley said he is considering increasing the number of seats in both his city restaurants -- Tsunami, which offers Pan-Asian fare, and Lemongrass, a Thai restaurant. The proposed fee increases for water and sewer could be a deterrent. He estimated fee increases could cost him up to $25,000 a year more for his restaurants.
"It sends a really negative message to developers," Buckley said.
Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire said members of the Environmental Matter and Finance committees, of which he is a member, have agreed that changes are needed.
"The city cannot be providing pro bono services to contractors and residential construction projects," said Shropshire, a Ward 7 Democrat. "We're trying to make sure these fees are at least equivalent to what the city is paying to provide the services. It's the right thing for the city of Annapolis."