Flaws lead Balto. County official to withdraw preservation bill

January 21, 2000|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

An attempt to broaden preservation incentives for owners of historic Baltimore County buildings has fallen short for the second time in two years, as lawmakers search for the right words to accomplish their goals.

County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, an Owings Mills-North County Republican, withdrew a bill Monday that was designed to expand tax credits available to the owners of historic properties. McIntire acted after preservationists pointed out that the legislation could have had the opposite effect and reduced the number of qualified property owners.

The County Council had been scheduled to vote on the bill Monday night.

McIntire had hoped to remedy flaws in a 1997 law that the County Council passed but did not implement. That law defers tax increases when the owners of historic properties restore their buildings. But the law did not spell out how the program would be implemented and homeowners could not learn whether improvements would qualify for tax credits until after the work was done.

The bill would have cleared up ambiguities in the law, but made it more difficult to obtain tax credits because it would have required buildings to be listed on the county's inventory of historic properties. Currently, owners of buildings in historic districts can receive tax credits, whether or not their home is listed.

Judith Kremen, director of the Baltimore County Historical Trust, said she was glad McIntire withdrew the bill. "We want to make sure that whatever becomes law is a true incentive and can be properly administered," she said.

While implementation was a problem, she said other sections of the legislation were also flawed. One section appeared to encourage property owners to gut the interiors of historic buildings by giving tax credits for interior work without limiting how much could be done, she said.

McIntire said he wanted to help property owners who want to update plumbing and electrical systems in old houses.

For years, preservationists have been seeking to expand incentives aimed at preserving historic properties.

"If there were a greater variety of incentives for property owners and developers, a greater number of historic structures would be preserved," Kremen said. "If we are going to preserve old neighborhoods, we need to have a smorgasbord and a tax credit program that works."

McIntire said he hoped to involve historic preservationists in writing a bill that would meet the goals of expanding incentives while being specific.

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