Saying his county is developing too fast for public services to keep pace, Anne Arundel County Executive James Lighthizer proposed today new controls on development and "impact fees" on new building projects as part of series of "growth management proposals." He said the county must act soon if it wants to avoid traffic jams, crowded schools and other development-related problems faced by Montgomery County.
The number of housing units in Anne Arundel has risen by 134 percent in the last 25 years and county planners expect an increase of another 37 percent in the next 25 years. The county's population, currently estimated at 397,000, is expected to reach 457,000 by the year 2010.
Traffic counts for the county have been increasing by about 3.7 percent a year, a much faster rate than the 1.2 percent annual growth in population.
While county population continues to grow rapidly, the rate of increase is lower than in the decade between 1970 and 1980, when the number of county residents rose by 72,000. A population increase of 23,400 is expected between 1980 and 1990.
Lighthizer said details on most of his proposals have yet to be finalized, but he estimated they will cost between $5 million and $6 million a year when put in place.
Many of the proposals must be submitted to the county council for approval, but some can be implemented through administrative order.
The proposals include:
*Development impact fees -- probably ranging between $800 and $1,500 per acre -- which builders and developers would be assessed to help pay for the impact the development has on public facilities.
*Adequate facilities project schedules, which would require the formal adoption of five-year project schedules.
*Quality assurance agreements, which would formalize and expand the use of negotiated agreements to improve the quality of development.
*Reduced density zoning, which would require comprehensive rezoning to bring land use in line with the county's General Development Plan. The total allowable home density would be reduced by about 70,000 homes under the plan, which is currently before the county council.
*A site renewal program, which would improve or remove blighted structures on sites scattered around the county.
*Utility management districts would be established for on-site management of private and non-central sewage and septic systems.
Lighthizer acknowledged that his proposals are unlikely to stop growth but said he hopes they can at least slow it to levels at which its quality can be monitored and controlled, and public facilities can keep pace.
"We don't want to end up with the problems people in Montgomery County are facing," Lighthizer said, citing congestion on I-270 and along Rockville Pike.
Calvin Gray, an Anne Arundel County developer and a vice president of the county's home builders association, said the impact fees suggested by Lighthizer seem small enough to have little significant impact on the overall cost of homes. He noted, however, that they would be yet another factor in their rising cost. He said he expected Lighthizer would meet soon with county builders to go over his new proposals in greater detail.
County Council member Maureen Lamb said she believed council members will embrace most of the county executive's proposals enthusiastically. "Growth has been the big problem. Wherever you go, people are saying 'We don't want growth,' " she said. Lighthizer's proposals are "a really fine effort to address the problem."