SALISBURY — Amid fears of hampering an already dreary construction climate in the county, Wicomico officials last week voted down a proposed hike in fees for development review and permitting.
At the request of County Executive Richard Pollitt, Jr., the Wicomico County Council considered the across-the-board increase in fees and other costs associated with development reviews by the county’s public works department. The fees have not been altered since 2004 and the proposed change was sought to help offset the increased costs for the county to review site plans, sketch plans, plats and other plans for new development.
For example, under the proposal the review of a sketch plat for new development would increase from the current $325 to $400 and the fee for a preliminary plat review would increase from $425 to $500. A minor subdivision plat review would increase from $225 to $300, while a major subdivision plat review would include a base fee of $500 plus $30 for each individual lot.
However, the council majority did not want to see any of the development fees increased, given the economic climate and the malaise in the construction industry.
“Each of us up here said we want to make Wicomico County more business friendly and I just can’t see raising any of these fees right now,” said Councilman Bob Culver. “We’re already in the upper percentages of the charges for these things compared to our neighboring counties.”
However, some on the council said the timing was right for increasing the fees, given the increased demand on the county’s public works department and its planning agencies.
“I agree with Mr. Culver’s concept, but I also know it’s been a long time since these fees have been raised,” said Councilman Bob Caldwell. “It seems like these changes are in line with what the public works department needs. This isn’t meant to be a revenue generator, this is simply bring them in line with what it costs to do these reviews.”
Councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes said the timing was right to raise the fees if only to help offset the cost of doing business for the county.
“This is an opportune time to do this as we go into another budget crisis situation,” she said.
For others, the discussion came back to perception.
“This isn’t the right message to send right now to people thinking about moving to Wicomico County,” said Councilman Matt Holloway. “This doesn’t send the message that we’re being business friendly or growth friendly.”
The council voted 5-2 against the proposed development fee increases.