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June 7, 2011

Good or Bad? At Least Itís A Start

Shawn Burns

To grow or not to grow? That is the question, one that the Frederick County commissioners are attempting to address with their proposed school mitigation fee.


Grow or die, many say. Frederick, especially the City of Frederick wasn’t growing in the 1970s and into the 1980s; and, for anyone who was living here at the time, Frederick was certainly dying. Downtown was ugly and getting uglier by the minute until revitalization took hold.


In the last 25 years Frederick has seen an explosion of growth. Some of that has been positive (just walk downtown on a Saturday afternoon); of course, some of that growth has been negative.


The answer seems simple, walk a path somewhere in the middle. And that is where the debate and arguments begin. The battle is whose path to follow.


The county commissioners have proposed – and will hold public hearing at the end of this month – to discuss moving forward with their school mitigation fee.


Based on comments several of the commissioners have made during meetings and in the local newspapers, it seems they believe this fee will be a tool to help encourage job growth and increase tax revenue to the county.


One aspect of this proposal that I am most supportive of it that is would expire in five years. I think every law passed at every level of government should have an expiration date, thus allowing future leaders the opportunity to review the effectiveness of a law and giving them the chance to either allow it to expire or continue unchanged, or with changes and improvements.


Currently in order to build a single-family home in the county, builders must pay a school impact fee of approximately $14,000.


In addition to this existing fee, the commissioners are proposing an additional fee of around $10,000 so that a builder has the opportunity to continue or begin construction in a school district that is at or near school capacity.


Will it work? Will it help growth? Will it provide jobs? Will it increase tax revenue? Will it help school construction? Will it add to school overcrowding? I have no idea.


But it’s an idea, an attempt to do something rather than sitting back and doing nothing. And if this school mitigation fee is seen as creating more negatives than positives, it can be repealed. A year or two from now, if the board doesn’t like the results, they can get rid of this fee. The other option is that since this proposal would expire, the next board will be in a position to review and to allow it to go away.


But before it has even been passed some people are already complaining. I say give it chance before crying about it.


I’ve seen firsthand the good and bad growth Frederick has experienced in the last 25 years. And I do not want growth that will hurt Frederick.


Some level of growth must happen in order for Frederick to be a place where people can find work and where businesses want to set-up shop. And it appears that is what this school mitigation fee is all about.


A public hearing on the school mitigation fee will first take place at the planning commission at 7 P.M. on June 29, followed by a hearing with the commissioners at 7 P.M. on July 19. Both hearing will be held in the first floor hearing room of Winchester Hall.


And last, but not least, a fond farewell to Adam Avery. Adam, happy trails to you. You are the Joe Lavender of the local political scene.


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