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Frederick Co. says water, sewer changes are 'business friendly'

Friday - 8/10/2012, 2:00am  ET

One change gives small-business owners a payment plan option for water and sewer fees. Another reduces the same fees for businesses that get LEED certification and reduce energy use.

The Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to make the changes to water and sewer regulations.

"We are trying to make Frederick County as business-friendly as possible," Commissioners President Blaine Young said. "We are trying to get over the impediments of starting a small business."

Small-business owners have been required to pay the hefty fees upfront. The idea for a change came about when celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio balked at opening a new restaurant on North Market Street when the city of Frederick required him to pay more than $200,000 in impact fees before even starting the project.

The county, which had a similar system in place, will now allow a business owner to spread the payment over a period of time that doesn't exceed 10 years. There would be interest, but the fees would be paid quarterly instead of as a lump sum, according to Kevin Demosky, county director of utilities and solid waste management.

The county developed measures to ensure money is not lost if a business project folds, Demosky said. The deal would be offered to a limited number of businesses at a time.

As money is paid back, the opportunity would be made available to other owners.

The second change of note offers credits to companies that are LEED-certified, meaning business owners have found ways to substantially reduce their energy use.

Peter Plamondon Jr., co-president of The Plamondon Cos., said his company will take advantage of the change soon.

Plamondon was at Thursday's meeting to witness the rule change.

His company is constructing a TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Frederick. The 120-room hotel is scheduled to open in September and will have special recycling programs and other eco-friendly features, he said.

"We'll benefit from reduced energy consumption," Plamondon said. "It costs a little bit more coming in, but the benefit is long term."

Although a place like TownePlace Suites will have a reduced impact, Plamondon's company would have been required to pay the same amount in water and sewer impact fees.

"We'll see a credit back from the county," he said. "We're not asking for something for nothing."

Commissioner Paul Smith lauded the actions taken Thursday.

"I think this will help some of the business development, some of the job development that we want," he said.

Helping Linganore

The county commissioners will hold a public hearing to decide whether to help property owners in Lake Linganore who must reimburse the county for installing water and sewer lines around their land.

The board agreed Thursday that the money needs to be paid back by the property owners, but Commissioner Billy Shreve said it made sense to offer them some relief in the repayment process.

Under the current arrangement, property owners must pay the balance owed in full before selling the land.

The 71 properties in question are almost all vacant lots, according to Demosky.

Over the years, the county has installed infrastructure to provide water and sewer to these properties. The county is working to recoup the nearly $7.6 million spent to date, Demosky said.

Rather than require repayment in full before land can be sold, the county will consider allowing the landowner to transfer the repayment arrangement to the next owner.

In some cases, owners are still on the hook for nearly $40,000 before they can sell their land. Water and sewer hookup is required before construction can take place.

"It's a decision to be made between the purchaser and the seller," Demosky said of the proposed option. "This just helps the transition."

A public hearing is planned for Aug. 30.