Home improvement tax credit expected Balto. Co. Council to vote on measure for owners of properties in historic areas

November 17, 1997|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

In a bid to restore and protect Baltimore County's historic homes, the County Council is poised to give owners a tax break when they improve their houses.

The tax credit, which the council is expected to approve tonight, would apply not only to historic landmarks, but to thousands of houses in historic districts in the county. The county has a dozen such districts, including those in Lutherville and Glyndon.

"The incentive is to fix up and restore historic properties," said Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican.

McIntire said his experience restoring an old house in Westminster many years ago prompted him to seek the tax credit legislation. "Any help at all would be an encouragement," he said.

State law allows localities to grant the tax credits and a number of localities have done so, including Baltimore City and Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

All members of the Baltimore County Council, as well as the county executive, support the bill, which authorizes a 10-year tax credit for significant improvements or restoration of historic homes. The tax break is designed to offset the increased assessment triggered by such improvements.

"I'm pleasantly surprised," said John Bernstein, director of the Maryland Environmental Trust, adding that the tax credit would help him continue to renovate a 19th-century farmhouse he bought on Longnecker Road in the spring.

Already Bernstein has replaced the furnace, and he plans to remove aluminum siding and replace a porch next year. "This tax credit is a reward for people who want to do an historically correct job," he said.

To receive the tax break, a homeowner would have to file an application to the county within 45 days of receiving a tax assessment on the improvements. The improvements or restoration also must comply with standards set by the County Landmarks Preservation Commission.

County officials say the fiscal impact of such a tax break is difficult to assess. Without the incentive, a homeowner might not make the improvements, and the home's value might not increase. Any loss of property tax revenue would be temporary, officials said.

Judith Kremen, executive director of the Baltimore County Historical Trust, praised the measure as a way to encourage homeowners to take care of historic properties.

"It's a real benefit for the owners of many different kinds of properties," she said. "It will be a valuable incentive for property owners to upgrade their properties and keep them in top-notch condition."

Pub Date: 11/17/97

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