Revitalizing tax credit

January 17, 1994

The border between Baltimore City and Baltimore County is clearly defined on the map. Yet by actual appearances and demographics, the two jurisdictions largely blur into one within the rough circle formed by Interstate 695. Here, the county more resembles the struggling city it envelops than the suburban haven of fresh housing tracts, free parking and horse farms beyond the Beltway.

The county government has designated nine inner-Beltway localities as "revitalization areas," which, as the term implies, are communities where certain commercial pockets have gone dowdy over the years. They are Arbutus and Catonsville to the southwest, the Liberty Road corridor to the west, Pikesville to the northwest, Towson to the north, Parkville and Overlea-Fullerton to the northeast, Essex to the east and Dundalk to the southeast.

Through capital funds from the county and the state, businesses in these areas have been able to spruce up somewhat. Still, the county would like business owners to make more of an effort to help themselves as well.

Toward that end, the County Council will vote next month on a bill that would grant five years of tax credits on improvements and new construction undertaken by businesses in most of the revitalization areas. Co-sponsored by council members Melvin Mintz, Vincent Gardina and Berchie Manley, the bill has the approval of local chambers of commerce. It won the backing of County Executive Roger Hayden only after the sponsors agreed to include just those areas that have on-going revitalization plans. The idea is to spur the stalled areas into rejuvenating their programs, thereby qualifying for the tax credits.

The credits would apply to the value of improvements or new construction as follows: 100 percent in the first year, 80 percent the second year, and so on to 20 percent in the fifth and final year. Each year thereafter, the full tax would be due.

Giving up tax revenue isn't something the tight-fisted Hayden administration favors. But many of these areas aren't producing much revenue anyway. County officials hope that if business owners can be encouraged to invest in themselves, the long-term payoffs to both private and public sectors would outweigh the taxes lost to the credits.

As the economy continues its gradual recovery, this bill seems well timed to give a much-needed lift to commercial areas of Baltimore County that could use it. We believe the passage of the Mintz-Gardina-Manley bill would provide just such a boost.

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