Howard Week

January 07, 2001

CA may have violated Md. assessments law, state officials say

The Columbia Association ignored the advice of the state attorney general's office and might have violated Maryland law when it changed the way it computes property assessments, two state officials say.

Contrary to what Columbia Council members apparently thought when they voted Dec. 21, a new state law does not require the association to assess property at 100 percent valuation rather than 50 percent, the officials said Dec. 29. In fact, they said, state law might forbid it.

The Truth in Taxation law, which went into effect Oct. 1, does not apply to the private homeowners associations because it is not a municipal or county government, according to Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Zarnoch and Ronald W. Wineholt, director of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Howard delegation plots Assembly agenda

Howard County's state legislators want the 2001 General Assembly to enact laws that range from changing the way Maryland awards electoral votes for U.S. president to making dog fighting a felony, as well as providing a balanced budget and health care reform.

The three state senators and eight delegates are concentrating on better health care for the elderly and uninsured, keeping spending in check, attaining more state money for school and community college projects and making Howard part of a new, statewide voting system.

Poor could not find housing in tight '00 market

Vacancies in Howard County's tight rental market were so rare last year that some people with federal rent subsidies have been unable to find housing, reducing the number of Section 8 recipients moving to Howard by about 60 families compared with 1999, a consultant's study shows.

The number of individually owned single-rental units in the county - often townhouses and condominiums - dropped 25 percent since 1999, says the study, which was authorized by the county Department of Housing and Community Development.

That, with higher rents caused by the tight rental market, has shrunk the number of families coming to Howard from other areas by about 12 percent, said Leonard S. Vaughan, the county housing administrator.

County may have to spend more on park project

Before the 160-acre Western Regional Park is completed this decade, Howard County likely will have to spend more than $2 million more than the $7.8 million predicted for the project, county recreation officials say.

The extra money won't be needed until 2004 at the earliest, recreation Director Gary J. Arthur said. The additional amount results from inflation and a plan for more playing fields and parking.

A public meeting on the latest version of the park's design is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Circle D recreational facility in Glenwood.

Officials stop work on 11-house development

Further delaying a project dogged by community opposition for three years, Howard County officials have issued a stop-work order against an 11-house development being built around a wooded ravine in Ellicott City.

County inspectors say concerns about tree-felling that started two weeks ago at the property and about deviations from the initial building designs prompted them to stop contractors working for developer Ronald Wildman. Tree harvesters appear to have cleared woods outside the boundaries outlined in the county-approved plans for the development, Bonnie Branch Overlook.

On Wednesday, Wildman disputed the extent of the damage outside the boundaries and attributed any violations to his surveyors' accidental failure to flag part of the area.

Boarded-up gas station concerns residents

Amid worry that Columbia's older villages could succumb to blight, residents of Oakland Mills asked why Exxon Mobil Corp. has left a boarded-up gas station as the first thing visitors see in the refurbished village center.

The former Exxon station at 5901 Stevens Forest Road closed without warning more than 15 months ago, and the company has yet to submit a plan for the property. A nearby former convenience store is also vacant.

Pfau, community activists agree on plan for offices

After months of bitter fighting over development in historic Ellicott City, builder Michael L. Pfau and community activists have settled on a plan for offices that both sides consider acceptable.

The Historic District Commission, which has twice rejected proposals from Pfau, voted 4-1 Thursday night to approve his latest plan. Commissioner Robert Williams opposed the project.

The meeting stood in contrast to the heated earlier hearings. Residents, Pfau and Pfau's attorney all expressed thanks. Pfau's company, Trinity Homes Inc., worked out a compromise with residents that tweaks his latest plan for a seven-building office complex on Fels Lane, near the businesses on Main Street.

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