Condo owners ask city for property tax cut Residents allege services unequal CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

November 09, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

The way Parr's Ridge condominium owners see it, they pay Westminster property taxes based on the same rate as all other city property owners, but do not get the same services.

So, they would like a tax abatement to compensate for approximately $11,200 a year they spend on trash collection, snow removal and street lighting.

City officials plan to study the request, but their initial answer is that Parr's Ridge is a private development and is not one of the types of housing units where the city provides trash collection. Westminster does not plow snow or provide lighting on private streets.

The city provides taxpayer-financed trash collection for single-family houses, town houses and apartment buildings of up to three units, but not for apartment buildings of more than three units or commercial properties.

Parr's Ridge residents are not unique in paying taxes and not receiving the same services as all other residents, said Thomas B. Beyard, director of planning and public works.

"If you carried that logic, I could say that I don't have any kids in school, so I don't want to pay [taxes] for education," Mr. Beyard said.

Margaret Sullivan, president of the condominium owners association, says members don't know why they don't receive trash removal, snow removal and street lighting.

"We pay property taxes to Westminster, and that's why we're asking for some consideration," Mrs. Sullivan said.

If Parr's Ridge condominium buyers were not told streets in the development were private and that the owners' association would be responsible for trash collection and snow removal, the sales representatives may have violated state law.

The law requires condominium developers to disclose that streets are private in the condominium's public offering statement, said Kathleen Wheeler, who reviews condominium registrations for Maryland Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly. The secretary of state administers laws governing Maryland condominiums.

Ms. Wheeler said the offering statement must also cover rules of operation, bylaws, contracts and any future expansion plans for the condominium. Prospective buyers are to receive a copy of the statement before they sign a contract or at the time of signing. If the sales representative does not provide a copy until after buyers have signed a contract, they have the right to opt out of the purchase, she said.

Mrs. Sullivan said she could not recall whether she had seen a copy of the public offering statement when she and her husband bought their condominium.

R. Kenneth Barnes, who spoke for the association at a recent City Council meeting, reported that the 90 condo owners pay about $30,000 a year in city property taxes.

The city tax rate is 83 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The council referred the issue to its finance committee for a recommendation. Mrs. Sullivan said she will name a committee to present information to the council panel.

Parr's Ridge condo owners pay maintenance fees that vary by square footage of individual units. The fees support an annual budget of $175,000 that covers management by a contracting management service, salaries for workers who maintain grounds and recreation areas, insurance, janitorial and maintenance supplies, utilities and other services.

The association spends $325 a month on outdoor lighting, about $2,000 a year on snow removal and $5,300 a year on trash collection, said treasurer Mary McGregor.

The condominium subdivision, planned for 168 one- and two-bedroom units in 13 buildings, is about half completed, Mr. Beyard estimated.

Parr's Ridge was Westminster's first condominium development, but planned condominium units in a section of the Furnace Hills subdivision off Uniontown Road are also to be built with private streets.

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