October 2016 Viewpoint

There are a couple of things on the radar screen of the Chamber. One is the “Development Impact Fee” and the second is the “Enterprise Zone Expansion”.

First, let’s look at the Impact Fee. Since its inception in 1992 this fee was established as a supplemental fee to help fund education in Wicomico County. Over the years, the fees collected amount to less than 1% of the Board of Education’s spending. Basically the fee was on residential homes, NOT commercial. An amount was collected as a “building permit” on residential single family detached homes @ $5,231 and other residential (per dwelling unit) of $1,524.

A couple of years ago, the County Council placed a moratorium on this bill with the hope to spark construction in the County. However, with the septic bill (BAT-Best Available Technology) adding $10-$20k to cost of building a new home AND sprinkler system bill adding another $5-$12k to the cost, these two bills pretty much neutralized the Impact Fee.

There is talk in Annapolis of relaxing the septic bill and maybe round 2 on the passage of the sprinkler bill could get reconfigured. We’ll see come January and the General Assembly 2017 Session.

So the current moratorium on the Impact Fee in Wicomico County expires December 31, 2016. This will probably be on the Council’s agenda later this month for a vote. There are several options available for the Council to consider:

* Extend the moratorium another 2 years expiring 12-31-18

* Voting to totally repeal the Impact Fee

* Simply tabling the repeal and bring back up at a later date and time

My guess is the Council will “repeal” the entire bill period. Remember, once you repeal, you will never get it back again if needed. Council simply won’t vote to reinstate.

That being said, there’s some credence in considering “vote to extend the moratorium another 2-years with a 12-31-18 sunset date”. It doesn’t hurt to leave the Legislative Bill on the books. At least you’d have it in your “hip pocket” in case the revenue is needed. Otherwise, every 2-years, spend 5 minutes in discussion and 15 seconds to vote to “roll the Impact fee over another 2 years”.

Now, the “Enterprise Zone Expansion.

Recently, County Executive Bob Culver approached the Salisbury-Wicomico County Planning and Zoning inquiring about expanding the current Salisbury-Wicomico Enterprise Zone to include the airport. After various discussions, it was determined that “yes” the zone could be expanded to include the airport.

The Chamber feels this is a “smart move”. You expand the existing zone by an additional 1,000 acres but more importantly the Enterprise Zone offers two tax credits- a property tax credit and an income tax credit. In order to receive these credits in the Enterprise Zone, there are two (2) caveats:

* You must create at least (2) or more FULL time jobs

* Your investment of a minimum of $50,000 in capital improvements

The City and County are working together to bring City water to the airport. This is critical to the future growth and development of the airport. Once the airport gets off the well system and on city water, construction of larger shell buildings or hangers greater than 10,000 sq. ft. could be constructed and meet fire suppression/sprinkler system code. Shell buildings can then be built with taxiways to the front door. Potential corporate opportunities of expansion and use of the airport by companies based at Wallops Island Facility.

Access to city water will further improve our great relationship with Piedmont Airlines based at the airport and its possible future expansion. The County is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to “fast track” adding 600 feet to the airport’s primary runaway to accommodate American Airlines passenger jets taking off in certain weather conditions with a full load.

The bottom line, this is smart to include the airport and Mt. Hermon and Airport Road approaches in the expanded Enterprise Zone. The City Council and County Council have voted in favor of the expansion thus enabling the Salisbury-Wicomico County Planning and Zoning to meet the Maryland Department of Commerce deadline of October 15, 2016.

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