Realtors oppose real estate transfer tax

Frederick News Post
Michael Kurtianyk
11/20/2013
We read with interest Saturday’s editorial (“Underrepresented on growth”), and we want to make clear that the Frederick County Association of Realtors opposes a real estate transfer tax because it would hurt homebuyers and sellers of existing homes — as well as buyers of new homes. In a typical transaction involving existing real estate, the buyer and the seller split the cost of a transfer tax. In a new-home sales contract, the buyer typically shoulders the full cost of a transfer tax. However, impact fees, like all construction costs, are reflected in the sales price of the home. Thus, they are financed through the buyer’s mortgage over years or decades. A transfer tax is due as cash at property closing, and in this fragile home market, both buyers and sellers would be greatly affected.

Monrovia residents say impact fee elimination would be developer boon

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/17/2013
Critics of a 1,510-home project in Monrovia are asking whether talk of changing county growth policies will lead to letting developers off the hook for millions in school construction fees. The proposed Monrovia Town Center is projected to add 840 students to surrounding schools, and county law requires the developer to put up an estimated $20.6 million in impact fees to expand classroom space for the newcomers. Opponents of the Town Center project say the impact fees will fall far short of paying for even one new school. However, they also worry that if county officials eliminate impact fees, this developer contribution for schools will drop to zero. "Instead, the costs will be borne by county residents," Steve McKay, a Monrovia resident, testified at a recent public hearing. County officials and community stakeholders are set to start brainstorming next week on the best ways to deal with growth in the county. The group has formed amid discussion of eliminating the county's impact fees and replacing them with a transfer tax levied when properties are sold.

Afzali turns down alternate seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/17/2013
Maryland Delegate Kathy Afzali on Friday rejected an invitation to serve as an alternate member on the county task force discussing local growth issues. She had previously volunteered to join the work group, but Sen. David Brinkley asked Delegate Galen Clagett to take a seat on the panel instead. Brinkley questioned Afzali's impartiality on the issue of creating a transfer tax, an idea she has said she opposes. Clagett, D-District 3A, is unable to attend Tuesday's kickoff meeting of the task force, so Brinkley on Friday sent Afzali an email asking her to represent the Frederick County legislative delegation for that day. But for Afzali, R-4A, serving as an alternate wasn't going to cut it. However, she said she will attend all task force meetings as a member of the audience. "Delegate Clagett doesn't have the time to devote to this very important topic," Afzali said. "I do have the time because I will be there. So maybe it's just time to appoint me the representative on the task force for the delegation."

Unbalanced task force

Frederick News Post
Steve McKay
11/17/2013
Since Commissioners President Blaine Young announced his intent to rid the county of the dreaded impact fees, I have been trying to pay close attention to this subject. After all, those dreaded impact fees are an important source of funds to mitigate all of the massive infrastructure challenges being created by the county’s drive to develop, particularly here in south county. So it was with some concern that I read The News-Post’s article of Nov. 12 headlined “Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force.” In all my efforts fighting against the Monrovia development, I can count on one hand the politicians that have raised their voices in our support, and Delegate Kathy Afzali is one of them. She has been a vocal supporter in our fight against Monrovia Town Center, and against excessive growth in this part of the county. She and Delegate Michael Hough came out to our meeting in Urbana, and we had a very constructive exchange. She even stood up and testified against the development at the planning commission hearing. She is doing her job and representing her constituents — us! So I was dismayed at Sen. David Brinkley’s comments in the paper that day. First, I found the comments very unprofessional, considering that he was speaking about a fellow legislator from the same district and party. Beyond that, however, I was dismayed that he would choose Delegate Galen Clagett, someone so clearly aligned with the development community, to participate on this task force, which is already so clearly biased toward the developers. Make no mistake, this task force is going to recommend ways to make the developers pay less for the impacts that new developments have on our roads and schools. Who will make up the difference? You and me, the taxpayers. Blaine Young wants to abolish the impact fee. For Monrovia Town Center, that represents 60 percent of their contribution toward new schools. When the impact fee is gone, under the terms of the Developer Rights and Responsibilities Agreement they have proposed, the developer will be completely off the hook for over $20 million! Under cross-examination at the third of four days of planning commission hearings on Monrovia Town Center, the applicant’s attorney, Rand Weinberg, confirmed as much.

Underrepresented on growth

Frederick News Post
11/16/2013
The growth task force, recently formed by the Board of County Commissioners to investigate ways for development to pay for its impact on our schools, roads, water and sewer supplies, and other infrastructure, lacks a broad enough membership to deliver a comprehensive and fair solution. Groups represented include the Frederick County Association of Realtors, Frederick County Building Industry Association, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, a municipality, and the senior, education and library communities. Elected officials from Frederick County’s delegation of state delegates and senators will also serve — it was the choice of precisely who from that delegation would join the task force that caused some contention earlier this week. Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Republican who represents northern Frederick County, was rejected as a participant by a fellow Republican, Sen. David Brinkley. Brinkley instead selected Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat, and delegates Patrick Hogan (R) and Galen Clagett (D). While we understand the argument that Young, Hogan and Clagett represent districts that include the city of Frederick, an area naturally suited for more growth, we also understand Afzali’s position that she represents Monrovia, an area in which the debate over development is current and controversial. “Afzali is about Afzali and not a solution to the problem,” Brinkley told reporter Bethany Rodgers. Yes, Afzali has an annoying tendency to want to grab headlines, but she makes a good point about the task force’s composition: It has a clear bias toward developers, builders and real estate agents. While we understand that those representatives are some of the key industries affected by either a transfer tax on the sale of existing homes or an impact tax on the sale of new ones, what the group lacks is representation from county residents — the taxpayers — who also have skin in the game.

Afzali passed over for seat on growth task force

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11122013
A state delegate who raised her hand to join a Frederick County growth task force was passed over for appointment after a fellow legislator questioned how “fair and open” she would be on the panel. Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4A, argued she would bring a much-needed perspective to the growth group because her constituents in the eastern areas of the county are among those most affected by local growth issues. In a Nov. 4 letter, she asked Sen. David Brinkley, R-District 4, to put her on the county-led task force. In response, Brinkley challenged Afzali’s impartiality on the question of creating a transfer tax to fund infrastructure improvements. In a Monday phone interview, he attributed Afzali’s interest in the work group to a desire for publicity. “Afzali is about Afzali and not a solution to the problem,” Brinkley said. Despite Afzali’s request for the task force assignment, Brinkley offered the opening to Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, and Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-District 3A, before finally naming Delegate Galen Clagett to the work group. Afzali said her goal is to represent district residents who have concerns about development in the county. Controversial development projects such as the Monrovia Town Center heavily affect her constituents, she noted. Clagett, D-District 3A, represents the city of Frederick, where building does not generate as much opposition, she said. “I’m the one who’s fielding the calls from irate citizens who are going to have the traffic jams and the noise and the safety issues from this kind of growth,” she said.

Frederick County work group to discuss impact fees, new transfer tax

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/05/2013
The unanimous decision followed discussion about eliminating the county’s impact fee and replacing it with a transfer tax levied when properties are sold. The Maryland General Assembly would have to authorize the change, so recent efforts to swap the fee with a tax fizzled without support from a majority of Frederick County’s legislators. Delegate Kathy Afzali said creating a new tax on home sales would further depress the county’s housing market. “We’re hungry for buyers,” said Afzali, R-District 4A, who has worked in real estate. “If anything, we should try to figure out how to cut costs for buyers.” But Commissioners President Blaine Young said it’s not fair to rely only on new construction to drum up funds for infrastructure improvements. Developers pay impact fees of $15,185 for each single-family detached house, $13,089 for townhouses or duplexes, and $2,845 for other residential units. The costs are typically rolled into the cost of a new home and passed on to the buyer. The fees, which brought Frederick County almost $7.2 million in fiscal 2013, are intended to fund construction of additional library and school space to serve the new communities.

A missing balance

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
10/23/2013
The Frederick County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at Winchester Hall this evening regarding the proposed Monrovia Town Center development at the intersection of Md. 75 and Md. 80 in the southeast portion of the county. The hearing before the planning commission is the penultimate step in the approval process for a 25-year Development Rights and responsibilities Agreement that will allow for the construction of 1,510 new dwelling units and a small commercial center just west of Md. 75. Coupled with the already approved 1,100-unit Lansdale project adjacent and just west of the proposed Monrovia Town Center, this quiet area of rural subdivisions and large lots is projected to grow from a population of around 700 within a 1-mile radius to over 7,700. If approved, the character of the area will certainly be transformed. Some residents undoubtedly would prefer to leave things the way they are and it’s hard to blame them for feeling that they have no say in something that could profoundly change their everyday lives.

Gray: More of the same coming from this BoCC

Frederick News Post
David Gray
10/08/2011
We are coming to the end of the third year of a developer-controlled majority of the Board of County Commissioners. You might think their anti-environment, anti-education and budget-depleting gifts to their friends and contributors would begin to subside. Not so. There’s more coming — and soon. ----- There is one year left for this BoCC majority to undermine good planning and give county funds away for developer interests, and other special friends like Aurora healthcare. As a commissioner now for 19 years I have never seen a group of elected commissioners who so blatantly favor their personal and special interests over the citizens and future well-being of this county. I am disgusted to witness these and prior actions of the last three years that leave a legacy of environmental neglect, growing bills and future tax increases, in the millions, to be shouldered by Frederick County taxpayers.

Frederick County commissioners halt increase to builders’ fees

Fees had been scheduled to jump 3.5 percent
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
05/17/2012
A scheduled increase in the fees developers pay when building new homes has been tabled, pending a public hearing. Last week, the County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to postpone the 3.5 percent increase because, they said, it would deter residential construction and further hamper a struggling housing market. The fees, paid to the county to offset increased demand for services resulting from residential growth, are automatically scheduled to increase July 1 every year to account for any hike in construction costs.

Plans for new libraries in Frederick County could be stalled

Young proposes continued funding for schools, public safety
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
05/09/2012
Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young has proposed a temporary halt to the construction of new libraries in the county. Young (R) said he would like to reduce or eliminate fees collected from builders to build new libraries. Under his proposal, developers would continue to pay fees for new school construction. “I don’t want to slow down school construction or reduce the impact fees for schools, because that [school construction] is one of the priorities of this board,” he said. “It’s in our strategic plan.”

Frederick commissioners adopt school construction fee

Move allows developers to pay to build homes near overcrowded schools
Gazette
Margarita Raycheva
07/20/2011
Builders in hard hats applauded Tuesday night when Frederick County commissioners adopted a proposal allowing them to pay a fee so they can build homes near overcrowded schools. The newly adopted ordinance, which goes in effect July 20, would open up the possibility of construction near overcrowded schools as long as those schools are not above 120 percent capacity.

Solving Frederick County’s school construction deficit

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
06/11/2011
The upcoming public hearings at the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners on the proposed school construction (mitigation) fee will undoubtedly generate plenty of commentary about how we need to do a better job funding our school construction needs. We won't solve this problem piecemeal. It's a complicated issue, and there are a variety of relevant factors that need to be considered. In many ways our largest problem has been finding funds to renovate our older schools, but our approach to funding new capacity has more than a few flaws as well. BoCC President Blaine Young has said that our current impact fees are the maximum permissible under law -- but that is, at best, misleading. Impact fees must be based on a "rational nexus" between the amount of the fee and the actual impact of the project being assessed.

Solving Frederick County's school construction deficit

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
06/11/2011
The upcoming public hearings at the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners on the proposed school construction (mitigation) fee will undoubtedly generate plenty of commentary about how we need to do a better job funding our school construction needs. We won't solve this problem piecemeal. It's a complicated issue, and there are a variety of relevant factors that need to be considered. In many ways our largest problem has been finding funds to renovate our older schools, but our approach to funding new capacity has more than a few flaws as well. BoCC President Blaine Young has said that our current impact fees are the maximum permissible under law -- but that is, at best, misleading. Impact fees must be based on a "rational nexus" between the amount of the fee and the actual impact of the project being assessed.

Alternative to impact fee considered

Frederick News Post
Clifford Cumber
11/11/2005
Thursday’s snowy morning may end up a boon to affordable housing throughout the state and end a conflict over how to help low-income workers afford to live in Frederick County. If 5 or 6 inches of snow hadn’t hit the region, local Realtor Billy Shreve might not have sat down and drafted his alternative to Commissioner Jan Gardner’s proposal to change the county’s impact fee to an impact tax, he said Saturday. Ms. Gardner’s proposal would allow the county to create waivers for cheaper housing and a sliding scale in which larger homes would be charged a greater tax than smaller homes, based on a square-foot assessment. Mr. Shreve’s proposal would allow Maryland’s 23 counties to draft ordinances that would allow waivers for impact fees on a case-by-case basis. Affordable-housing advocates would go before county-appointed boards to seek a special waiver for their projects, Mr. Shreve said.