Calvert County commissioners voted last week to raise recordation fees as a way of pushing developers and newcomers to share in the cost of growth controls imposed earlier this year. Under the measure approved 3 to 2 on Tuesday, recordation fees--one-time payments to record a deed or mortgage--will increase from $3.30 per $500 dollars of the recorded mortgage to $5 per $500.
The county projects it will receive an extra $1.5 million a year from the increase. The money will be earmarked for Calvert's agricultural preservation fund, commissioners said. Earlier this year, board members passed a zoning ordinance designed to curb the county's development potential by 50 percent. While that action pinched property owners, commissioners said, the recordation fee increase targets developers, builders and county newcomers.
"This is the promise we made to spread the pain," said Commissioner David F. Hale (R-Owings). "This increases the number of people who pay for our growth-reduction policies. This is our first step."
Commissioners President Linda L. Kelley (R-Owings) said she and other board members will ask state lawmakers for permission to float a bond issue for $7.5 million to buy development rights on undeveloped land at the current $2,600-an-acre price. The annual $1.5 million generated by the higher recordation fee will be allocated to pay off the bonds, Kelley said.
"We need to do everything we can to preserve property now," she said. "Once that farm is converted to a subdivision, it's too late."
The commissioners divided along party lines on the fee increase, with the two Democrats opposing it and John Douglas Parran (At Large), who is not affiliated with any party, joining the board's two Republicans in supporting it.
At least one of those who opposed the measure said the move to raise the recordation tax came too early. Commissioner Patrick M. Buehler (D-St. Leonard) said he voted against the increase because the state legislature has not yet agreed to the $7.5 million bond proposal. Commissioner Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large) also voted against the recordation fee increase.
"They raised the taxes before they had the authority to borrow the money," Buehler said. "I support agricultural preservation, but they're doing it piecemeal, without a plan."
Kelley said Buehler's concerns will be addressed at the Oct. 12 meeting when the commissioners discuss how the $1.5 million will be allocated.