'Grime and crime' district is proposed for midtown

March 28, 1995|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Another large swath of Baltimore could have a special tax to pay for private security patrols and street sweepers under a bill introduced last night before the City Council.

The proposed special taxing district in the city's midtown area could become the third in the city in the past three years -- and would link similar districts in the downtown business section and Charles Village area.

Its boundaries are roughly Centre Street on the south, 20th Street on the north, the Jones Falls Expressway on the East and Howard Street and Eutaw Place on the west.

Included are the neighborhoods of Mount Vernon-Belvedere, Mount Royal, Bolton Hill, Charles North and Madison Park.

If approved by the council and endorsed in a referendum of residents and property owners, property taxes in the Midtown Special Benefits District would be raised by 30 cents for each $100 of assessed value.

The money raised would be used for private street sweepers and trash haulers and security guards.

The legislation enabling residents of yet another section of the city to boost their property taxes comes on the heels of the release of the city's updated long-range financial plan calling for a 20-cent property tax reduction by the fiscal year 2000.

The reduction -- in annual nickel increments beginning a year from July -- is designed to retain and attract middle-class homeowners.

At $5.85 per $100 of assessed value, the city's rate is the highest by far in the metropolitan area.

Second District Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, whose district includes Charles Village and who is the chief sponsor of the midtown bill, said residents are willing to pay more for services as long as they feel they can control how the money is spent.

"They know where it's going; they don't trust the government with the extra money," he said.

Mr. Ambridge lamented that special taxing districts were needed.

"I think it's a darn shame we have to resort to special benefits districts," he said. "At the same time, it's rewarding to see these people work together."

"This is what the people want," he added.

Survival is concern

Allen Golden, president of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Community Association, said enhanced services are crucial for his community.

"It's the only way we're going to be able to survive," he said.

Roger Nissly, an aide to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, said after last night's meeting that the mayor is generally supportive of the creation of another special taxing district.

Last winter, Charles Village residents voted 2-1 to become the first city residential neighborhood to pay additional property taxes for improved security and sanitation services.

Fifty-eight percent of eligible voters must give their approval before a special taxing district can be created.

The other districts

The Charles Village Community Benefits District was in turn modeled on a special taxing district to fight "crime and grime" in the downtown business district, set up in 1992.

In another city neighborhood, Guilford, many residents voluntarily contribute to the costs of a private security patrol.

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