Marina industry urges council to slash the boat slip tax to 5%

March 08, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Members of an ailing marina industry last night urged the County Council for some economic relief in the form of a proposed 50 percent cut in the slip tax.

Representatives of more than 50 commercial marinas in the county attended the hearing on the bill that would reduce the slip tax -- which is assessed as part of each docking or storage fee charged by a marina -- from 10 percent to 5 percent.

A typical slip rents for about $2,000 a year, said Mitch Nathanson, a marina owner and member of a committee of county officials and marina owners appointed by County Executive Robert R. Neall that recommended reducing the slip tax.

Steuart Chaney, owner of Herrington Harbor marina, noted that when the slip tax was first adopted 21 years ago all of his slips were filled and there was a long waiting list of new customers. Nearly every marina owner in the county enjoyed a similar situation, he said.

"Today there is no waiting list and we've got a 20 percent vacancy rate," Mr. Chaney said. "I think it's pretty clear the slip tax has become an economic loss to us."

Susan Smith, president of the Anne Arundel Marine Trades Association, told the council that the fact that Anne Arundel is the only county with such a boat tax harms the entire marine industry in the subdivision.

"Too long Anne Arundel County has imposed an unequal tax burden . . . on our marine facilities and we request that this be reduced," she said.

"Anne Arundel is the premier boating county, with more natural facilities for the boater than any other county. However, we have lost that edge and those boaters because of increased competition from other counties without this tax burden."

A lone dissenter, Philip B. Malter of Annapolis, presented a spirited argument in favor of not just maintaining the 10 percent tax, but of increasing it to 50 percent.

"This tax is not a tax on the slip renter. It's a tax on the marina owner," he said.

Mr. Malter built his own slip in a private marina for about $1,500 and he estimated that each slip in a commercial marina would cost about $2,000 to build and rents for between $1,500 and $2,000 a year. "You can recover the price of a slip in almost every year's rental," he said.

"Every one of these shoreline properties quadrupled in value because it was zoned as a marina," Mr. Malter said. Marina owners should be willing to pay such a tax "because you gave them the right to use our waters for their private use," he said.

He added that marina owners saw many profitable years when they had to pay the tax and that the hard times have come with the recession. "Remember, this tax has been in effect for 21 years. They've been complaining about what's happened the past three years," Mr. Malter said.

John Meneely, who owns Shipwright Harbor in Deale, said that Mr. Malter's figures were wrong.

"I don't think there is a marina owner in this room who couldn't say they paid 15 times" the $2,000 figure to build a slip cited by Mr. Malter, Mr. Meneely said. "I don't think this gentleman realizes that the public access to the water is really what we provide."

The council voted to amend the bill so that the tax cut would not begin until July 1, when the fiscal year starts. A second public hearing and possible vote on the bill will be held on March 21.

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