Prince George's County, often viewed as the last wide-open development frontier in the Washington area, should rely more heavily on builders to pay for roads, County Executive Parris Glendening said yesterday.
Glendening, whose pro-business policies have encouraged rapid development in recent years, announced a plan to assess "impact fees" on all new construction in the fastest-growing sections of the county.
His plan, expected to raise $5 million annually, drew immediate criticism from key leaders in the business community who warned that it would drive up the cost of housing and office space and could force developers, who only recently have begun investing heavily in Prince George's, to take their dollars elsewhere.
Glendening acknowledged during a news conference that the impact fee plan would not be popular with builders, but he denied that it would hurt development. He said in the long run it would enhance the business climate because developers want to know "when they commit to a project the transportation system will be there."
Kenneth Duncan, president of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are concerned about what they see as an attempt to shift onto a specific industry a cost that should belong to the public in general.
"It represents a dramatic departure from the way we have funded growth in the past. Everyone paid equally," said Raymond LaPlaca, a county developer and immediate past president of the Suburban Maryland Building Industry Association.
Because the fees would be paid on new homes and business buildings, LaPlaca said, young people and new businesses would pay a disproportionate share of the cost of road construction.
The impact fees -- so called because they would raise money to pay for the impact of development on the county road system -- would be levied on new developments in Laurel, Beltsville, Greenbelt, Bowie and Largo. All are areas that have experienced a boom in residential, commercial and retail building and have felt the strain on area highways.
Glendening said he will ask the General Assembly for enabling legislation to impose the fees next year and said he hopes to have the program, which would require County Council approval as well, in place by the fall of 1989.
The opposition that rose against Glendening's proposal is a replay of that in other jurisdictions. Impact fees are in effect in part of Montgomery County and all of Anne Arundel, where County Executive James Lighthizer was besieged by developer complaints when he pushed for the fee last year. Carroll and Washington counties also are considering such fees.
An 11-member committee to be appointed by Glendening will work out the details of the plan, including during which phase of construction the fees will be collected, precise areas of the county to be covered and specific fee levels.
Glendening said the fees should range from $556 to $610 for each new single-family house; from $328 to $359 for apartment units; from $1,420 to $1,580 for each 1,000 square feet of new office space; from $930 to $1,050 for each 1,000 square feet of new commercial space; and $450 to $510 for each 1,000 square feet of industrial space.
The fees would pay half the cost of county road construction in the affected areas. The county would pick up the other 50 percent of the road construction cost through traditional methods of financing, including general obligation bonds.
Glendening said the impact fees are necessary to help the county keep up with the growing demand on the road network, particularly in the northern section of the county where hundreds of millions of dollars in new office and home construction is planned. In the Laurel-Beltsville area, for example, there is an estimated $75 million in unfunded county road improvement needs.
"This will not deter quality economic development in the county," Glendening said. "It will allow it to continue in a reasonable way."
Municipal leaders in Greenbelt and Bowie applauded the plan as a way of shifting the burden of paying for public facilities off existing homeowners and businesses.IMPACT FEES AT A GLANCE
An impact fee is a tax charged to builders to pay for building public accommodations such as new roads or schools needed as result of development.
In Prince George's, the fee would be used for roads.
In most cases, a developer absorbs the fee, and passes it on to new home buyers, retail, commercial and industrial space lessees.