Howard County is looking for a new member for the Board of Appeals, after the resignation of William B. Waff of Savage, who is moving out of state.
He said his departure was because of a huge assessment increase on his 6.3-acre property in Savage that made it impossible for him to pay the taxes. Because he also had been laid off from his full-time job, Waff said he was forced to sell the townhouse-zoned land to a developer. He plans to move to Connecticut.
A board member since May 1999, Waff, 60, submitted a letter of resignation Dec. 2, though he promised to continue hearing cases for several months or until a replacement is found. His vote will be crucial in deciding at least one high-profile case - whether to allow construction of Maryland's largest private soccer complex near Centennial Park.
The five-member board split 2-2 in a straw vote this week, and Waff's vote should break the tie next month. The board hears conditional-use cases, zoning variances and appeals of administrative decisions.
Board Chairman Robert C. Sharps called Waff "an excellent board member."
"He's always been there," Sharps said. "He supported me tremendously with administrative duties."
County Councilman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat who was council chairman when Waff submitted his resignation, said he is researching the law to see if there is a way to take the pressure off homeowners like Waff.
State law allows the local 5 percent cap on assessment increases only on a house and 1 surrounding acre. Waff said the assessment on his land increased from $168,220 to $425,250 three years ago, substantially increasing his tax bill.
"Our family has lived on this property for 22 years, and we had always intended to keep it in its present form of a simple residence," he wrote. "The assessment change was a shock! Because of these events, we were forced to sell our property for development. We know this not only offends us, but also our neighbors."
Waff was not available to comment yesterday.
"I'm not happy about it at all," Guzzone said. "I am never happy when people feel forced to develop their land. From a state perspective, I think it will be difficult to deal with. I've got our office of law looking at alternatives."
"Bill has been a land-use activist for many years and has contributed to a number of citizens groups that have been interested in land use," he added.
Waff helped edit and write a pamphlet titled "The Complete Zoning Activist" - a guide to the development process for citizens groups.
The part-time board positions pay $12,900 a year.