Maryland City Considers Fee Halt to Promote Residential Development

Originally published by: Delmarva Now (Salisbury, Maryland)January 17, 2017

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Salisbury City Council members are considering a one-year moratorium on city fees associated with new house construction on vacant lots and some abandoned subdivisions in the city as a way to boost home ownership.

Image result for salisbury city maryland mapThe plan got the backing of most council members during a work session on Tuesday, but Councilman Jim Ireton said it won't fix problems such as code violations and drug dealing that happen in some neighborhoods.

"This incentive won't stop that," he said.

But Mayor Jake Day said the initiative will help accomplish the city's goal of promoting home ownership and getting rid of vacant lots which he called "a blighting influence."

"They are worse than occupied houses where bad things are happening," he said.

The moratorium would apply to building permits, plan reviews, plumbing permits, mechanical permits, capacity and central line fees on infill lots in residential zones R-5, R-8 and R-10.

It also would apply to subdivisions that were abandoned due to a downturn in the economy: the Heritage, Aydelotte Farms, Parsons Lake Phase 1 and Sassafras Meadows.

The incentive is expected to save $14,250 per dwelling unit, but the builder would still be responsible for water and sewer tap fees of $7,480.

The proposal would help improve profit margins for local builders, said Jamie Gladden, whose family-owned Gladden Construction is getting ready to  build five single-family houses in the Hunters Crest area of the Aydelotte Farms subdivision.

"There's a desire to live in the city, but there's no inventory," Gladden told council members.

The initiative would require that all houses built during the moratorium period be owner-occupied for at least 10 years, otherwise all fees must be paid to the city prior to the transfer of the property. Some council members said they favored reducing the time limit to five years, or prorating the amount of fees that had to be repaid based on how long the house remained owner-occupied.

The council is expected to discuss the matter further at the next work session in two weeks.

If the moratorium is approved, it would be the second incentive for home builders in Wicomico County in recent months. In November, County Council members repealed an impact fee on new construction as a way to boost the housing industry that has lagged since the economic crash in 2008.

The county fee was adopted in 2006 in the middle of a housing boom. All new residential construction was required to pay $5,231 for a single-family house and $1,524 per unit for multi-family housing.


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