Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Council Flinches on Impact

Yesterday, the County Council had their work session on the County Executive's impact fee proposal. The bold plan, predictably, drew quite a bit of heat from the Council, for reasons ranging from the disingenuous (see Ed Middlebrooks feigning concern about "affordable housing"), to bad-faith misdirection (see Cathy Vitale: "The numbers that were produced were not based on one specific methodology"), to being insulted that the Executive gave the Council the legislation rather than vice versa (see Jamie Benoit's request to have the Council hire its own consultant).

From the start, there was never a question that a significant hike in impact fees was going to be an uphill battle, despite the fact that several members of the sitting Council blamed the Owens' administration for a failure to appropriately hike the fees.

Now, I certainly won't begrudge the Council its due diligence, but to question the consultant, James Nicholas' credentials or his "methodology" strikes me as a bit desperate. After all, Nicholas literally wrote the book ("A Practitioner’s Guide to Development Impact Fees" (1991)) on impact fees, is an urban & regional planning professor at the University of Florida, and has been a consultant on the issue to at least 5 states, 28 counties, 22 cities, and the US government. His resume can be found here [pdf].

If the Council can find a more qualified consultant, I would certainly welcome his or her assessment of the County's situation. If, however, the Council is just chafed to learn that every time a new home goes in, the taxpayers of Anne Arundel County get rogered in the pocketbook, they should do the right thing and make new development pay its own way.

This is, arguably, the most important issue that will come before this Council. Thousands of new homes are slated to come to the County as a result of BRAC, and if we don't have serious impact fees in place when they do, taxpayers will be subsidizing each new home to the tune of something like $20,000 apiece. That's the way business has been done in the past, and it's why, despite adding 60,000 people from 1990 to 2000, our tax burden continues to increase.

UPDATE: Sun coverage.

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