Appeals court affirms special tax districts

February 15, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The Maryland Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed the use of special tax districts as a method of paying for community projects, striking down a challenge by a group of Cape St. Claire residents.

Special tax districts allow counties to assess communities with a special fee and disperse the money collected to civic boards for specific projects, such as parks and piers.

Robert J. Booze, an attorney representing himself and a group of Cape St. Claire residents, had argued before the Court of Appeals last November that the $30-a-year special benefit tax levied on his community by the Cape St. Claire Improvement Association is unconstitutional because the funds are being used for private projects.

Mr. Booze and a group of neighbors filed suit in Anne Arundel Circuit Court four years ago, arguing that funds in his community are spent on beaches and a pier that are closed to the public and open only to members of the association.

County Attorney Judson P. Garrett had defended the county's 42 special tax districts, saying they are authorized by state statute, that they are created only after a majority of the property owners approve and that the money raised benefits the entire community.

Maryland's highest court agreed, saying the phrase "public purpose" should be broadly interpreted and may include such long-term benefits as increased property values and more attractive neighborhoods.

"The increase in value of the properties in the District . . . also benefits the taxpayers of the county at large," Judge Lawrence F. Rodowsky wrote in a 24-page decision.

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