Parr's Ridge Island CARROLL COUNTY

November 19, 1992

You don't send children to the public schools, then why pay local taxes toward education? You don't own a car, then why contribute to road maintenance? You're a couch potato, and proud of it, then why pay to fund a municipal park you never use?

Farfetched? Yes. Yet that seems to be the reasoning of some owners of the Parr's Ridge condominiums. They have petitioned the city of Westminster for a reprieve of $11,200 in taxes on the grounds that the condominium association is responsible for trash collection, snow removal and street lighting at the complex. Residents of single-family homes, townhouses and duplexes get those city services provided as part of their tax bill. Condos, like apartment complexes and businesses, pay for their own garbage pick-up, snow removal and lighting.

This controversy isn't unique to Carroll, although condos are a fairly rare animal in this county to which many people re-locate for the wide, open spaces -- or at least for a quarter-acre with a tree or two. In fact, the state of New Jersey is hammering out details of legislation that would waive portions of taxes for condominiums that don't receive all municipal services; Connecticut is examining similar "equity" legislation for condos.

In Maryland, where condominiums represent 6 percent of all housing types, some jurisdictions service condos like any residence. Others treat them like apartments -- and make them contract with their own trash haulers -- because they share a lot of common private property, like apartments. Officials might also argue that condos, even a development as nice as Parr's Ridge, are generally accessed at lower prices than other types of owner-occupied housing. Thus, they bring in less revenue per household for a denser service area.

Westminster officials -- who are mulling the Parr's Ridge request -- also would be correct in arguing that private maintenance and lighting were among the conditions on which they approved the project, which is to total 168 units.

State law forbids the city from waiving a portion of taxes for a condominium complex, so that is not an option. As for providing public trash service to condos while not to apartments and businesses, Westminster officials could be opening a Pandora's Dumpster that they'll later regret.

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