Severna Forest May Levy Tax Against Moths

Neighbors/Severna Park

November 01, 1990|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

Severna Forest is petitioning to become the county's first community to impose a gypsy moth-control tax.

If Severna Forest Community Association vice president Albert Johnston can get the OK from more than half of the 170 homeowners in his development, and if the petition clears the public hearing process, those residents will see a $15 increase tacked on to their property tax bills next July.

"This will make it easier to collect for spraying," said Johnston, who is also the former chairman of the Greater Severna Park Council's gypsy moth committee.

"Like I've said at many a GSPC meeting: we cannot totally eliminate the gypsy moth problem. We can only control it from year to year so we might as well put a mechanism in place to pay for it."

Severna Forest has to submit its petition to the county by Feb. 1, 1991, to be eligible for special tax district status in time for next year's budget, said Carolyn Kirby, county benefit district coordinator.

Anne Arundel is the only jurisdiction in the state that allows neighborhoods to tax themselves to take care of community property -- a practice that goes back more than 50 years to the Bay Ridge community's forming the first district to control beach erosion. Severna Forest would be the county's 30th Special Community Benefit District.

Last February, reacting to the presence of a record number of gypsy moth egg counts, the County Council passed emergency legislation that for the first time allowed communities to petition for special tax district status to pay for aerial spraying. Despite this and other measures, the gypsy moths defoliated an unprecedented 7,000 acres of county oak trees last summer and are expected to be at least as prevalent this summer.

Since the legislation passed, Crofton, Chartwell, Amberly and Winchester estates -- all holders of special tax district status for other purposes -- have signed up with the county's budget office to pay more for their gypsy moth spraying.

Johnston said that in addition to Severna Forest, representatives from Fair Oaks and North Severna Park are also seeking special tax status this year, though their petitions are not ready to be circulated. Leaders from about 10 other communities belonging to the GSPC have also expressed interest in the program, he said.

Last spring, private, county, state and federal agencies sprayed 28,000 acres across in Anne Arundel. The community associations that participated in the county's program, which sprayed 7,400 acres, were charged $13.33 per acre; the community associations then billed their members.

Richard Olsen, the county's gypsy moth spray program coordinator, said he expects more communities will follow Severna Forest's lead, using the county's tax billing system rather than collecting the money on their own.

"I can understand how it can be a problem in larger blocks," Olsen said.

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