PILOT legislation could be damaging to city...


May 17, 1999

PILOT legislation could be damaging to city taxpayers

Residents and business owners who pay property taxes in Baltimore should be thankful that Gov. Parris N. Glendening is looking hard at the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) bill the legislature passed last session.

One provision of the bill, introduced at the last minute at the behest of Wyndham hotel developer John Paterakis, opens the door to casino gambling at this hotel, overriding a 25-year no-casino pledge in the original legislation for the Wyndham.

Even the bill's sponsors apparently do not have a clear understanding of the implications of the new provision.

The bill also gives Baltimore's mayor wide latitude to negotiate property taxes with developers for land they already own.

As homeowners in Fells Point, we wish we could negotiate our property taxes with the mayor. But we've never heard of such a practice before and believe it runs counter to the "uniformity" requirements of the Maryland Constitution.

Up to now, PILOT has been reserved for property owned by the city or for charitable projects.

The bill would allow Baltimore to fulfill its promise to give Mr. Paterakis more than $3 million a year in property tax relief over 25 years. The city argues that this investment will bring such benefits as jobs and cheaper hotel rates.

But property taxes support our children's schools. Do jobs cleaning toilets and parking cars at a big hotel make up for the basic education that could be delivered to our kids for $75 million?

The city has also seized on the legislation to spur west side development. The bill is a powerful tool for a mayor about to leave office who cannot be held accountable for his PILOT awards.

Contracts will be let, certain rights will be vested, demolitions will be promised, and our new mayor will come into office with his or her hands tied on major financial and preservation issues.

Let's hope the governor will kill this bill, giving the incoming administration an opportunity to hit the ground running with a new plan for development incentives for next year's General Assembly.

Kathy Greene-Davis, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Fells Point Homeowners' Association.

A true roadway connector: a highway without exits

The Sun's May 10 editorial "Tying Montgomery Co. to the Baltimore region" supporting the inter-county connector highway linking Montgomery County with the Baltimore Washington International Airport area was persuasive on economic development grounds.

Maryland's economy would no doubt suffer if Montgomery County strengthened its business and transportation ties with Virginia's northern counties at the expense of Baltimore and BWI Airport.

However, environmental and quality of life concerns still argue against rampant development across the portions of Montgomery and Howard counties that a connector highway would traverse. The area's woodlands, streams, farms and villages could be lost forever.

Each on- and off-ramp of the new highway would inevitably be attended by a commercial village of of gas stations and fast-food restaurants, then office parks and housing developments.

If a cross-county highway is truly needed, let it be only a connector and not a path to future development. That means no off-ramps.

Motorists would access the road from either Interstate 95 or I-270 and drive straight to the other freeway. A service plaza in the middle could meet the needs of the planning impaired.

Such a road could be designed to avoid damage to waterways and screened by creative landscaping. Without cloverleaf ramps, it should cost less.

The connector would still cut a wide swath through precious natural lands, but it would not bring the kind of sprawl that has engulfed Montgomery County along I-270.

David Kirby, Baltimore

Seeds of Flower Mart are thriving in Florida

The Flower Mart lives -- a seed from it has taken root in Florida.

The Mount Dora Plant & Garden Fair, in the prettiest small town in Florida, grew from my memories of the stalwart Mount Vernon event.

As our Florida Flower Mart seedling enters its fifth year, we hope the mother plant will live and give inspiration to all community-based garden events.

We do it a little differently here, what with our gardening season starting in the fall and I still haven't convinced anyone that peppermint-stick lemons taste good. But we wouldn't be doing it at all if weren't for the Baltimore Flower Mart.

Christine Cole, Mount Dora, Fla.

The writer is founder and chairwoman of the Mount Dora Plant & Garden Fair.

Cars and guns are not the same

I would like to respond to the May 11 letter about similarities between the tragedy in Littleton, Colo., and the incident in Cosa Mesa, Calif., where a man drove his car onto a playground at a day care center, killing two children ("Regulating cars and guns won't stop violent outbursts").

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