Bill to aid buyers of new homes in Woodlawn withdrawn Purchase of older houses should be focus, officials say

March 04, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials are refusing to give financial aid to homebuyers in two new Woodlawn subdivisions, saying the county instead should encourage residents to buy used houses in such older communities.

A bill was to have come before the County Council tonight to provide $42,857 in county and federal money to help residents buy new houses in the Sheffield Glen and Bristol Park subdivisions.

But after the bill met a hostile reception at a council work session Tuesday, administration officials decided to withdraw it.

Steve Lafferty, the county's manager of neighborhood revitalization, said the controversy was the first to arise over the Settlement Assistance Loan Program started by the county a year ago.

The program uses federal Community Development Block Grant money to help low-income, first-time homebuyers purchase houses in older neighborhoods. It also gives grants to nonprofit agencies to counsel the buyers.

When the nonprofit agency serving the Woodlawn area chose not to assist buyers in the new Sheffield Glen and Bristol Park subdivisions, the developer, Questar Homes Inc., offered to provide the counseling services for free.

But council members said they feared the bill smacked of favoritism. "I'm concerned about the perception of favoring a particular developer," said Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican.

And although Mr. Lafferty said the measure would encourage homebuyers to stay in older neighborhoods, councilmen said they saw no reason to give incentive to buyers of new houses.

"There are a lot of older houses that could use this assistance," said Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat. "Our emphasis should be on stabilizing existing communities and existing houses."

Although the program allows nonprofit agencies to help buyers of new houses, county spokesman Mike Davis said the administration will take another look at that aspect of the program.

"It was always our intent to have older homes bought in older neighborhoods," he said.

The council also will consider:

* A bill limiting the amount of back property taxes paid to disabled veterans and blind people.

After paying nearly $41,000 in the past 19 months, the council has decided to limit the back payments to three years -- the same as the state. The county now has no limit, and council members became concerned when the county was required to refund to a disabled veteran living in the wealthy Caves Valley area nearly $19,000 for property taxes he had paid since 1988.

* A resolution approving a $2.1 million expansion of sewer service to 24 homes in the Middle River Neck area with failing septic systems.

* A $555,000 contract with RTKL Associations Inc. for design of the Dundee-Saltpeter Environmental Park to be built in the Bowleys Quarter area.

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