No Special Treatment for Parr's Ridge

March 21, 1994

Providing tax relief to Parr's Ridge, Westminster's only condominium development, may make good political sense in an election year, but is it good public policy? No.

Del. Richard Dixon's bill that would enable Maryland municipalities to abate taxes to condominiums is moving along smartly in the General Assembly, but it may be taking local governments down a slippery slope.

For more than two years, residents of the 168-unit development have been seeking a reprieve from about $16,000 in taxes on the grounds that their condominium association pays for the snow and trash removal and street lighting. Residents argue that because the streets within the development are private, they have to pay for their repair as well.

The condominium owners had sought relief from Westminster, but the city attorney, after extensive research, said local governments need approval from the General Assembly to provide such tax abatements. Mr. Dixon submitted his bill, which was amended to include all the state's municipalities.

While it is true that Parr's Ridge residents may not use certain city services, they either knew or should have known they would be paying condominium fees as well as city taxes when they purchased their units. Parr's Ridge residents are not unique in that regard. Other condominium owners in Maryland -- in fact, all over the country -- find themselves in the same situation. Paying condominium fees and city taxes is just a fact of life of condo ownership.

More disturbing is the underlying premise that since the residents are not using some services, they shouldn't have to pay for them. Does that mean people without school-age children should get relief for that portion of their taxes that pays for schools? What about people who don't use the parks, or who don't own cars and thus don't care about road upkeep? The list could go on and on. Taxes were never intended to be user fees. Westminster city taxes do pay for services, but they aren't based on which of those a city resident uses. Providing abatements to the residents of Parr's Ridge is not a desirable solution for their situation.

The proposed relief will only open the door to further requests from all sorts of other property owners for unwarranted exemptions.

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