Westminster can give tax relief to Parr's Ridge if Md. bill passes

March 06, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Westminster's mayor and City Council would be able to give Parr's Ridge residents a tax break if a bill sponsored by Del. Richard N. Dixon passes the General Assembly.

The legislation, heard in committee Friday, would give municipalities the authority to make agreements with privately owned residential communities concerning city services.

Residents of Parr's Ridge, a 168-unit condominium development Pleasanton Road, near Uniontown Road and Route 31, have been asking the city for tax relief for more than a year.

They say they pay city property taxes but do not receive city services such as street lighting, and snow and trash removal.

After a hearing in the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee, Mr. Dixon, a District 5A Democrat, told 13 Parr's Ridge residents that he couldn't guarantee that the committee would pass the bill. But he said its chances look good.

"We think it went well. We had no opposition," he said.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown had opposed the proposal, House Bill 703, until Wednesday, when the parties involved agreed on amendments.

Mr. Dixon said differences were resolved in a conference call that day with City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr.; Cynthia K. Hitt, an attorney for the Parr's Ridge Condominium Association; and resident Kenneth Barnes.

As originally written, the bill required municipalities to make an agreement concerning certain government services with privately owned residential communities.

Now, the bill says municipalities may make agreements about services if they choose.

Mr. Brown said that without the change the legislation would allow the state to dictate what the city could do and that he could not support that.

"The principle of the thing is important to me. They [Parr's Ridge residents] live here; the question ought to be decided here," he said.

If the bill passes the House of Delegates and Senate, Parr's Ridge residents will bring the issue before the mayor and City Council again, Mr. Barnes said.

Residents discussed the issue with city officials last summer. After doing some research, Mr. Walsh advised the mayor and council that the city did not have the authority to give the residents a tax break.

Asked if Mr. Brown told Parr's Ridge residents whether he would support a tax break for them, Mr. Barnes said, "He wasn't that clear. He said he'd like to do what's fair."

Edward Wright, president of the condominium association, said residents pay about $16,000 a year for street lighting and trash and snow removal. They also pay about $48,000 a year in city taxes, he said.

But the city does not provide lighting or snow and trash removal on private streets, and Parr's Ridge is on a private street.

The city provides those services for single-family homes, townhouses and apartment buildings that have up to three units.

The Maryland Municipal League supports Mr. Dixon's bill but will offer a technical amendment to make a provision on tax abatements more clear, Stephen R. McHenry, associate director legislative services, said Friday.

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