After originally passing a bill to provide relief to developers on impact fees, the Frederick County Council voided its passage due to an amendment that requires the bill come back for a public hearing.

Frederick County Council members voted early in the evening Tuesday to provide some relief to developers by updating how impact fees are enforced countywide, including for some small homes like in-law suites. But hours after a split vote on an amendment to allow increased sizes of in-law suites and tiny homes known as “accessory dwelling units,” Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said the amendment was “substantive” to the bill, which requires it to come back to the council for a public hearing at a later session. The vote to pass the bill became “null and void” and will need to be voted on again.

Councilman Jerry Donald (D) introduced the legislation on behalf of County Executive Jan Gardner (D), and said it was an update to a bill from him and Councilman Steve McKay (R) last year. That bill changed the impact fee levels based on the type of property.

Impact fees are fees paid by developers to fund the growth in libraries and schools that the development brings.

The new bill makes two changes: it gives developers a credit for the land component of the school impact fee, if they donate land for a school site. That credit is usually worth hundreds of dollars depending on the type of development, The Frederick News-Post previously reported.

The other major change the bill proposed prevents developers from essentially paying for the same impact fees twice, if the land was transferred from one developer to another after building permits expire.

Council members passed those changes in a 7-0 vote. Lengthier debate, however, centered around the amendment introduced by Phil Dacey (D).

Dacey’s amendment proposed increasing the square footage of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) which qualify for a public school impact fee waiver from 800 to 1,000 square feet. He said in an interview and during the meeting that failing to alter that part of the bill would “disincentivize” people from building ADUs, otherwise known as in-law suites or tiny homes that are built on the same property as a primary home.

Waiving the impact for accessory dwelling units is predicated on the idea that because the home is not a primary residence, it’s unlikely children will be living in it. So, schools and libraries are likely to see growth due to the accessory dwelling unit.

But Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said she couldn’t support the amendment. She said she went looking at apartments with her son in Annapolis, and that some three-bedroom apartments were 1,000 square feet — enough space to house children.

Keegan-Ayer said because of that, those developers should pay for the impact and cost of those kids in the school system.

“There needs to be some sort of way to recoup the cost of those [seats],” Keegan-Ayer said.

But other council members, including Councilman Kai Hagen (D), said not providing that waiver for bigger ADUs could prevent county officials from addressing a lack of affordable housing countywide.

Hagen said even with the waiver, there wouldn’t be a great amount of accessory dwelling units immediately being built. He added there wouldn’t be neighborhoods of them popping up, or that they would necessarily add to the school-age population.

“I’d like to see some of these things actually get built,” said Hagen, adding there aren’t many ADUs in the county.

Donald, however, said the fees needed to be collected, in part in order to prevent school crowding, an issue in many parts of the county.

”I want to be there when they drag out the last portable [classroom] from the last school,” said Donald, who taught in portables for multiple years. “And the quicker we can get to that point, the better off we’ll be.”

County staff, including Steve Horn, director of the county’s planning and permitting division, said if the ADUs were large enough to have children in them, then those developers need to pay the fee.

But McKay sided with Hagen and Dacey. He called the gap between 800 and 1,000 square feet “arbitrary” and a “magical mystical zone” and that it didn’t line up with the county’s affordable housing goals.

Before the vote was voided, McKay, Hagen, Dacey and Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) supported Dacey’s amendment. Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D), Vice President Michael Blue (R) and Donald voted no.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter:

@Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(7) comments

mrnatural1

Quote:

"Waiving the impact for accessory dwelling units is predicated on the idea that because the home is not a primary residence, it’s unlikely children will be living in it. So, schools and libraries are likely to see growth due to the accessory dwelling unit."

First of all, there is absolutely no way to know who will be living in an ADU. How can anyone say, "...it’s unlikely children will be living in it"? Guaranteed some of the residents will be children.

That aside, since when did 'schools and libraries' become our only concerns? What about roads and bridges? Police and fire protection? The county health dept? All of the other functions of government that cost more money as population increases and our quality of life continues its downward spiral?

Whatever form it takes, development should pay for itself.

MD1756

Impact fees should be increased not reduced. Frederick already does not properly maintain its infrastructure or plan to grow the infrastructure with the increasing population.

reds2193

Do you know what the current impact fees cost? I don't know how anyone could afford to buy land and build a home in Frederick County for themselves or as a business. Frederick County should be making it easier for flippers and small business owners who are willing to incur the costs of taking abandoned blighted properties in this county that the county is likely receiving no tax monies from and turn them into an affordable home that in turn will house persons who will pay their taxes and bring money to Frederick County.

MD1756

And when will the growth stop? When it looks like NYC? new construction should at least pay for itself which at this point, it goes not not. Why should existing residents be taxed more or put up with worse service and infrastructure in order to make it easier for more crowding and lower quality of life? Let the Johnnies come lately pay for their impact. We owe nothing to keep developers in business.

mrnatural1

Spot-on MD! [thumbup][thumbup]

mrnatural1

Exactly MD. [thumbup][thumbup]

reds2193

Anything Frederick County can do to make it harder for the little guy to make any profit in this county. With the price of land in Frederick County increasing with every day and impact fees ranging from $25K-$35K most small businesses are in $150K-$200K before they even break ground. Ask anyone who owns a Dan Ryan Home if they like it or not. Id be willing to bet they dont have many nice things to say about it.

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