Homeowners association thinks a tax might save it GLEN BURNIE

September 22, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

The Parke West Homeowners Association will fade away unless homeowners become more involved and are taxed for the community's upkeep, community activists fear.

The association, revived three times in the last 20 or so years, is suffering from dwindling interest and shrinking coffers, said President Richard St. Hilaire.

Over-volunteered volunteers are burning out; fewer people are paying dues; nobody has stepped up to be president next year. The organization needs at least 16 people to canvass the 470 homes to try to create a special taxing district, and so far only six have offered, Mr. St. Hilaire said.

"There are a lot of things we've done, but there is a lot more we can do," Mr. St. Hilaire said, pointing to recreation areas developed in recent years. One includes picnic tables, horseshoe pits and a playground.

The association has successfully lobbied for noise barriers along Interstate 97, which should be in place next year, and it runs social events for the community that lies southeast of Quarterfield Road.

Those active in Parke West say that the organization needs a few thousand dollars a year for insurance and property maintenance. Members would like to consider more improvements to a second recreation area, other landscaping, perhaps hiring a periodic security patrol, returning the newsletter to monthly distribution and the like.

Mr. St. Hilaire estimated that a special tax would be about $15 a year, half of what people now pay to belong to the association.

An area has to demonstrate to the county that its homeowners want a special tax for a public purpose, generally to maintain community property. A majority would have to sign a petition asking the County Council to consider it. The special tax would be added to each homeowner's regular tax bill and the money would be diverted to the organization.

Proponents say eliminating the joyless task of collecting dues would go a long way to helping the association by automatically providing funds. Only 61 people paid this year.

Providing a financial base might encourage people to become officers. Community cohesiveness and spirit would benefit, and more people would likely participate -- if only to learn what's happening to their money, say proponents of the plan.

"It would distribute the responsibility throughout the community," said Elaine Hochreiter, association vice president. "It's one of the best investments anyone can make."

Cathy Posey, the association's recreation chief, said that many people volunteered in 1990 and 1991 to build one recreation area. Largely through her efforts, the county gave the group about $4,600 toward the park and activities over four years.

However, a call last spring for volunteers to clean up the area drew but five families, and the park needs regular maintenance. But if the association can occasionally hire maintenance workers, residents can devote more attention to activities there.

"We don't just want money, we want time," Ms. Posey said. "People want to live in a nice place."

The newsletter, which used to be monthly and hand-delivered to every house, is now quarterly and mailed. It would take about eight hours to hand-deliver all the newsletters, another job for which there are no takers. Mr. St. Hilaire said that the group may consider shrinking the newsletter and mailing it only to members.

Hard as it may be to believe, residential communities increasingly want to be special taxing districts, nationally and in Anne Arundel County, said Carolyn Kirby, who manages the districts in the county. "People don't mind paying a tax for something they can see," Ms. Kirby said.

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