|October 2013 County Issues Update|
|Anne Arundel County
Introduced: Bill 74-13 – SWM special revenue fund – this bill expands the $1 fee to all non-profits exempt from income taxes and property taxes. Currently religious organizations pay $1, private schools pay $170 and 501(c)(3) or (d) non-profits pay $340 for each half acre of impervious. The AFL-CIO has threatened to sue the county because churches are granted $1 fee and other non-profits pay more. The legislation was recently amended to expand the definition of a farm and extend the appeal process for farms and non-profits to Dec. 31.
Introduced: Bill 81-13 – Multifamily dwellings and townhouse dwellings- Allows townhouses and multifamily developments in commercial zone areas of up to 75% of the net site area of a building. This is a change from only allowing residential use in 50% of the floor area of commercial buildings. In commercial areas within 2-miles of a commercial complex of at least a million square feet, the residential percent may be more.
Bill Summary: CB 81-13 encourages redevelopment of commercial areas in the C1, C2 and C3 zones by allowing additional flexibility with required commercial use as long as the site meets several specific incentive criteria.
Passed: Bill 75-13 – Fire Code – The County is updating the fire code but no new regulations will affect single family detached homes. The updated code will affect dead-end streets in multifamily developments, codifying that the turn around distance must be 150’. The County had allowed up to 300’. Surrounding counties use 150’ which seems to be the standard so HBAM will not object.
Passed: Bill 76-13 – Critical Area – The County passed new critical area legislation in December but this new bill reflects changes requested by the critical area commission. The bill makes minor changes to standing, grading, grandfathering, afforestation, variance procedures, and definitions.
Failed: Bill 66-13 - Capital facility connection charge & connection deferral fee – the capital connection fee bill was amended to allow a 2 year extension. The original legislation allowed just 1 year.
Failed: Bill 59-13 – Backflow prevention devices - the backflow inspection legislation was amended to add testing and also requires inspection and testing upon installation, after repairs or relocation, and every three years.
P2503.8.1 Inspections. Inspections shall be made of all backflow prevention assemblies UPON INSTALLATION, IMMEDIATELY AFTER REPAIRS OR RELOCATION, AND EVERY THREE YEARS to determine whether they are operable.
P2503.8.2 Testing. Reduced pressure principle, double check, double check detector and pressure vacuum breaker backflow assemblies shall be tested at the time of installation, immediately after repairs or relocation and [at least annually] EVERY THREE YEARS.
Baltimore City Chapter
A coalition of housing advocates has filed a complaint with the county over their affordable housing plan and are threatening a federal lawsuit. The County Administration continues to negotiate with the advocates and are trying to resolve the issue to prevent a lawsuit. The group wants more affordable housing options inside the URDL as well as a voucher program and more affordable housing requirements in PUD legislation. The Chapter is monitoring developments and will stay involved if legislation is introduced.
Earlier this year when the Council approved new open space waiver fees, they instructed the Planning Commission to study the fee methodology and provide recommendations for changes by October 1. The Chapter has been following this issue and the Commission has not begun this study and did not provide recommendations by Oct. 1. We continue to follow this issue and will be involved in any discussions.
The Chapter continues to seek a resolution to 2 water meter issues our members are having with the increased meter size. Below is a summary of the two issues:
ISSUE #1: Minimum water usage charges are based on the size of the water meter – which is sized according to the estimated water demands of a given house. Because all new houses are now required to have fire sprinklers installed, water meter sizes have to be upsized 2 or 3 times and no longer accurately reflect typical water consumption. Prior to the sprinkler requirement, typical water consumption for a single family home translated to a meter size of 5/8" - which corresponds to an annual minimum water usage charge of $58.20. In order to now accommodate sprinklers, water meters are often having to be upsized to 1" – which translates to an annual minimum water usage charge of $232.84 (4 times more than is the case for a 5/8” meter).
As a result, many homeowners that are making concerted efforts to conserve water are no longer seeing this reflected in lower water bills. With the minimum water usage assessment being based on an inflated minimum consumption volume, it can actually discourage water conservation efforts. The mentality becomes - “If I’m paying for the water, I might as well as use it.” We believe minimum water usage charges for homes should be based on the rate for 5/8" meters - as was the case prior to the sprinkler requirement.
ISSUE #2: Minimum water usage charges are commencing once the water service laterals are installed. The problem in this is that it can be several months, sometimes years from the time the lateral is installed until a house is under construction. Depending on the size of the development, these quarterly minimum water usage charges can add up quickly. We believe the charges should instead commence upon issuance of a building permit.
County Commissioners have begun a review of County building codes in an effort to find efficiencies and streamline processes to ease burdens on permit applicants. The Chapter has a representative on a task force that was established to look at this issue. The task force continues to meet and a final report is expected later this fall. At the last Chapter meeting, Commissioner Howard came to discuss this task force and hear our ideas for changes and to discuss other issues members are having with the development process.
The Council passed a Resolution sponsored by the County Executive and Councilmember Ball that adds flexibility to the County’s green neighborhood program. The resolution allows builders and developers to access the green neighborhood allocations and build LEED or NGBS Silver certified or higher homes, and not be restricted solely to the County’s green building program as has been required. Developers would still have to meet the green site development requirements to qualify for the green neighborhood allocations, but once the allocations are granted, builders could get permits by building a LEED or NGBS Silver home. The Chapter supported this additional flexibility and believes it will lead to additional green building incentives.
A group of local citizens is collecting signatures to send the comp plan to referendum on the 2014 ballot. The group met their first deadline of 50% of the required signatures Oct 3 and have 30 days to collect the remainder. The County is holding implementation of the comp plan until this petition drive is over and they know if it will be on the ballot or not. The Chapter is monitoring the issue.
Upper Chesapeake Chapter
The Chapter met with County Executive Craig to present development regulations modifications and 3 pieces of legislation have been introduced to change local ordinances. Our Chapter identified several modifications to development regulations which will ease (not eliminate) the burden on the industry, provide economic incentives for new development, and will help the industry recover and reach its full potential in creating good paying jobs and providing tax revenue for the County. Our proposals focused on housing set-backs, preliminary plan and record plat extensions, school APFO impact fees and capacity, and NRD Natural Resource Districts. We believe these changes will not violate good planning principles and will not harm or adversely affect Harford County, but will benefit greatly our members doing business in the county and we look forward to discussing the below ideas with you and your Administration.
1) 13-35 CCRC height adjustments from 50 ft to 4 stories in the R1 and R2, and from 60ft to 6 stories in R3 and R4.
2) 13-36 NRD district threshold changed from 30% to 25%. HBAM proposal.
3) 13-37 preliminary plan and record plat extensions. Prelim plans would be valid for 3 years with a 1 year extension. Current law says valid for 2 years with a 2 year extension. Legislation also extends record plats from 180 days to 1 year. In our request to David Craig, we asked for prelim plans to be valid for 3 years with a 2 year extension, but the legislation says a 1 year extension. We also asked for the 1 year extension to record plats.
4) 13-38 repealing the stormwater fee
Cecil County has delayed implementation of a new sewer hook-up fee from $8,000 to $12,000 until October 1. The Council delayed the new fees 90 days from their original July 1 implementation to give them more time to study the reasons for the increase. The Council held a hearing where HBAM members testified against the increase. The Chapter has also met with County Executive Moore to urge her to stop the increase. CE Moore is pushing the higher fees to pay for infrastructure upgrades that our Chapter members and some on the Council do not feel are needed. The Chapter drafted the following editorial and sent it to area papers but it was not published.
The next HBAM Eastern Shore meeting will be October 29 at noon at ABC Supply in Salisbury.
|Issues by County|