Frederick made a short-term change to its water and sewer fees Thursday to encourage all sorts of business ventures, aldermen said.
They unanimously voted to change the ordinance that applies to impact fees so property owners may divide the cost into four payments over four years instead of paying the whole amount before a building permit is issued.
Aldermen said the new ordinance was not intended to help out any particular business, but Alderwoman Karen Young said a proposal by Volt restaurateurs Bryan Voltaggio and Hilda Staples for the former Carmack-Jay's property on North Market Street was the catalyst.
"(The ordinance) isn't being tailored for their needs," Young said.
The possibility of $200,000 in impact fees brought the subject to the aldermen's attention. Aldermen Michael O'Connor and Carol Krimm said the city should do what it can to be friendly to business and clear unnecessary hurdles.
"Business-friendly is important because our state is not," said Gary Brooks during public comment. Although he liked the ordinance's intent, he warned aldermen that the city and its citizens may not be sufficiently protected from having to pay the cost if a business goes bankrupt.
The ordinance gives builders an option to pay one-quarter of the impact fee upfront, and one quarter per year for three years after, by entering into a low-interest loan with the city. Saundra Nickols, city attorney, said the city will turn off the water or place a lien on the property if the bill is not paid.
In three to six months aldermen plan to consider a new ordinance that will base the fees on actual projected usage and not on the number of fixtures and drains.
"This was never intended to be a long-term solution," Young said.
Impact fees are collected to help defray the cost of water and sewer capacity upgrades. Quarterly water and sewer bills are separate.
"Carmack-Jay's has been empty too long," said Bill Ashton during public comment. "Let's do something to help people put businesses in there."
In other action Thursday, the board voted on:
* Issue/sale of Water Quality Bond Series 2011 in the amount of $15 million for work at the Ballenger-McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plant; passed 5-0
* Refinance $25 million series general obligation and airport improvement bonds; passed 5-0
* Give volunteer park enforcement officers authority to write citations; passed 4-1 (Alderwoman Kelly Russell opposed)
* Repeal section of park enforcement ordinance regarding park enforcement; passed 4-0-1 (Russell abstained)
* Place Historic District Overlay zone at 7926 Gas House Pike, the Nicodemus property; failed 3-2 (Russell, Alderman Michael OConnor opposed)
* Continue agreement with Frederick County for technology support contract; passed 5-0
* Amend Policies and Procedures Handbook sections to define shift differential and eliminate sick leave bank; passed 5-0
* Issue $34,532 purchase order to Criswell Chevrolet for 2011 Chevrolet Silverado truck; passed 5-0
* Amend budget to account for the use of fund balance to buy 2011 Chevrolet Silverado truck; passed 5-0