Fee ordinances revisited in Dagsboro

Two Dagsboro ordinances will be revisited in the form of public hearings at the town’s July council meeting. The ordinances passed on March 20 established an impact fee, charging developers $1,500 per EDU, and a 3 percent building permit fee. Both have drawn complaints from area builders and developers, which might lead to lawsuits, according to at least one area developer.

New town attorney Rob Witsil recommended that the town revisit the ordinances after he requested an objective study performed on both. At a May 22 council meeting, Witsil — who was sworn in as the town’s attorney earlier that night — said he would have liked to see more “rationale and justification” in the ordinances. He said, for instance, that the fees should be collected upon building permit application not at preliminary and final approvals.

But, he added, “The procedure for adopting the (impact fee) ordinance was proper. It is a legal document.” Witsil said the same about the building permit ordinance.

No developers attended the public hearing at which the ordinances were passed. Paul Clark — of the development firm Cummings and Clark Properties — said that no developers attended because they didn’t receive proper notification. Town administrator Stacey Long disagreed.

Clark, who attended last Monday’s meeting, said he was opposed to the procedure used to advertise the public hearing and the content of the ordinances themselves.

Clark said at the meeting that his company already had preliminary approval for the commercial center Clayton Crossing before the fee changes were put into place, a comment which prompted Witsil to ask if he already had final approval before the change.

Although the company did not have final approval before March 20, Clark said that Clayton Crossing should not have been subject to the fee changes established after the commercial center was entered into the system. He added that town officials told him Clayton Crossing would be subject to further fee changes although it had already received final approval and building permits.

“I don’t know how you expect any businessman to do business if they don’t know the cost,” Clark said, adding that before learning of the fees Cummings and Clark already had a 15-year lease with Centex for that company to occupy one of the Clayton Crossing properties. “When can a developer or builder assume the fees are set? We assumed they were set when we got preliminary approval.”

Aside from the new impact and building permit fees, Clark said, his company also paid $3,000 per EDU — 20 for Clayton Crossing — for water fees, and $5,000 per EDU for ambulance and fire each. And the town charges for “review” fees, he added. To date for the Clayton Crossing project, Cummings and Clark has paid Dagsboro $150,070 — $12,500 of which comes from “review” fees alone, Clark said. Upon requesting an invoice for the “review” fees from the town, Clark said that Dagsboro’s “review” cost only seems to be $1,200.

When Cummings and Clark built the Medicom building three years ago, they paid the town $3,800, Clark said. Clark added that they are talking to a lawyer and considering suing the town.