Mistake by officials slows attempt to create tax district in Provinces Residents to receive corrected petition by mail

August 14, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

After spending six months preparing and circulating a petition door to door to get just over half of the 898 homeowners in the Provinces to approve a special taxing district, civic association leaders there thought they had finally cleared a major bureaucratic hurdle.

But five days before a County Council vote on legislation creating the district, which would raise money for upkeep of a community park and other property, the civic association learned that its painstakingly circulated petition was hopelessly flawed.

The description of the district in the western part of Anne Arundel it had received from the county and put on its petition is incorrect and does not match the description in the legislation before the council.

The county will pay $575 to recirculate a corrected petition by mail to each homeowner in the proposed district. A council vote will be delayed until October.

Even with the delay, the community benefits district could be created in time to collect the first of the $12-per-home annual payments in July as planned, according to Carolyn Kirby, grants administrator and special taxing district coordinator for the county.

The council hearing on the matter is scheduled to go on as planned at 7 p.m. Monday.

"The county is most certainly making every effort to help as much as possible and to rectify the situation," said Lore Peterson, vice president of the Provinces Civic Association.

The mistake was unintentional, Kirby said.

"When we were translating language that they originally gave us into what would be suitable for a petition, we made an error," Kirby said. "We plan to write a cover letter explaining what happened, include a petition and a self-addressed, stamped envelope so they are more likely to be returned."

About 50 volunteers knocked on doors on evenings and weekends from January through May to collect 502 signatures.

"That's a lot of legwork," said Councilman George F. Bachman, the Linthicum Heights Democrat who represents the area. He worked with Peterson, civic association President Marie Cook and the county executive's chief administrative office yesterday after a council work session to ensure that the county would make up for its error.

The association wants the tax district because, unlike the area's newer neighborhoods, where homeowners must pay an annual fee to a homeowners association, residents in the older Provinces are not required to contribute to the civic association.

Relying on voluntary payment of the $12 annual fee, the association raised about $5,400 last year, just enough for bare maintenance of the park and wooden signs at the entrance to the community.

County Auditor Teresa Sutherland discovered the error and the mismatch between the district described in the petition and the one described in legislation this week during a routine check of legislation up for hearing.

The bill excludes the newer neighborhoods, built after the mid-1980s, where homeowners pay mandatory fees for upkeep of community property separate from the older Provinces. State records consider the old and new neighborhoods together as the Provinces, and the language in the petition followed that model, according to Kirby.

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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