While other county residents sign petitions to cap their property taxes, some homeowners in Pasadena actually want to dig deeper in their pockets next year.
The community associations for Sun Valley and Cedarwood Grove, two housing developments off Mountain Road, are considering creating special taxing districts to offset the cost of maintaining their private roads and parks.
Leaders for both communities suggested seeking additional property taxes to fairly divide the upkeep among all homeowners, instead of burdening association members with higher dues.
But neither community wholeheartedly backs the plan. The mere mention of a larger tax bite has pitted neighbor against neighbor, younger families against retired couples and active community members against the more reclusive.
"I think the sentiment is going the other way now," said Jim Duffy, one of the 173 homeowners in Cedarwood Grove. "Some of the neighbors are elderly and don't use the recreational facilities, so they feel they shouldn't have to pay. An extra $25 might not sound like much, but it can be for elderly people or a divorced mother of four."
Special taxing districts first were developed by homeowners who rehabbed old resort communities along Anne Arundel's rivers and streams, said Carolyn P. Kirby, a budget and management analyst with the county's budget office. When residents began living year-round in the former resorts, they looked for a way to improve and maintain the beaches, piers and private roads, she said. Requesting additional taxes that could be funneled directly back into the community was a simple solution.
Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties are the only two in the state that currently have special taxing districts. Homeowners in 28 different Anne Arundel communities belong to these districts and pay higher taxes, ranging from an extra $10 or $12 a year to $971 in Annapolis' upscale Sherwood Forest.
Some districts form only briefly and are dissolved as soon as residents fix the roads or build up an eroding beach, Kirby said. Others, such as the 26-year-old Crofton community on the western side of the county, maintain active districts to keep up everything from town halls to recreation services.
But communities can't simply declare themselves a district and impose additional taxes for any reason.
More than half the residents living in an incorporated community first must sign a petition requesting a benefit tax and specify planned improvements. The county then verifies the signatures and arranges a public hearing. If the County Council votes to create the district, the community must submit a detailed budget for approval, Kirby said. Sun Valley and Cedarwood Grove are considering establishing the districts to maintain private recreational areas. Trapped by rising insurance rates to offset the liability on its overgrown, eight-acre park, Sun Valley may either close off and post the lot as private property or resort to a special tax, said Anthony Motsco, treasurer for the community association.
"It's been a thorn in our side for some time," he said. "We don't have the manpower to get out and cut the lawn all the time."
While Sun Valley is considering a minimal $10 annual tax, Cedarwood Grove is wavering. Residents just voted in a new president of the community association, Vernon Plack, who has not favored the proposal. Plack did not return calls to comment on the issue.
"I think it would be helpful for extra things -- snow removal, a light post that isn't being kept up, and things like that," said Lori Davies of Marco Drive.
But one of her neighbors, who asked not to be named, voiced her opposition in no uncertain terms.
"We just want a nice community and don't want to pay extra taxes," she said.