Commissioners Give Nod to Waving About $200,000 in Fees on Elkton Projects

A tentative decision was made to waive municipally assessed major facilities fees in connection with a Cecil Bank owned building at 110 Collins Street, at the last workshop of the Mayor and Commissioners.  The plan as discussed is to demolish the structure and construct a parking lot.  But a few other ideas were tossed out for the parcel such as turning it into a small community park.  These waivers are somehow connected to the Senior Citizen project planned nearby on High Street and the discussion concerned transferring certain rights and fees between interested parties.

The controversial matter was debated by the elected-leadership with lots of pros and cons getting tossed out in what was a sometimes confusing examination of the subject.  Commissioners Jablonski and Piner argued in favor, pointing out that it improves the town.  In terms of neighborhood betterment, “It’ll start a domino effect so I vote yes,” Commissioner Jablonski advised.  She also thought a parking would benefit the area, providing space for the church and others.  Several elected officials disagreed with that so the discussion turned to a park.   “My purpose was to tear the building down to get credits for those hook-ups not transfer them,” Commissioner Piner added.

In line with an argument he always presents when it comes to taxes and money, Commissioner Storke worried about the loss of revenue caused by these special exemptions, as well as the precedent it creates.  “Are you going to raise taxes next year?  If you do it for one you’re going to have to do it for everybody,” Commissioner Storke remarked.  “Where’s it going to come from if you keep giving money away unless you’re going to raise taxes,” he emphasized as he recalled other waivers of fees, which didn’t involve transferring credits.

As the board debated the benefit to waving the fees, the professional staff offered public policy considerations.  “Has the town ever transferred a fee waiver?”  Commissioner Storke asked as he worried about “opening the gate” for more of these types of requests.  “No we’ve never done that,” staff answered.  An administrator suggested the town not call it a transfer because of the precedent it sets.  Since it “appears you want to do this” have the interested parties justify a reduction by showing  a cost-to-benefit ratio, another remarked.  As staff learned about the details of the request the politicians were debating, it was added that they could monetarily demonstrate “value to the community in terms of blight reduction.”

After lots of points were made and it was getting down to finer concerns, the mayor took a straw vote to see if the board wanted to approve waving approximately $200,000, according to our viewing of the video.  The Collins Street project would have generated approximately $150,000.  But there was another one, which involved waving about $50,000 in hook-up fees for the Board of Education project at Elkton High.  It was also noted that there is one other request from a private developer pending consideration.  Neither of these involved transferring the waiver to other parties.

Here’s how the straw votes went.  Mayor Fisona and Commissioners Jablonski, Piner and Givens said they could vote for waving fees on Collins Street.  Commissioner Storke wasn’t in favor.  On the Board of Education all  members approved of that one.

With a majority being in favor, the town administrator was asked to prepare a written document for the regular meeting Wednesday so the formal vote can be recorded.  The proposal, listed as “Ingerman Group – Contribution for Senior Housing Apartment Building,” is scheduled for presentation during the administrator’s report.

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