Columbia assessment-cap bill gains Senate panel's approval

Measure would impose a 10% limit on rising fees

April 08, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A state Senate committee approved legislation yesterday that aims to provide financial relief to Columbia homeowners by imposing a 10 percent cap on rising property assessments in the planned community.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee unanimously approved the bill, drafted by Del. Shane E. Pendergrass. It was not amended.

House Bill No. 566 would limit the effect of rising state property tax assessments on the annual charge that the Columbia Association imposes on its property owners.

The bill also would phase in assessment increases, which are based on property values, over three years, something the county does now.

The Columbia Association now collects the charge based on a property's highest valuation each year, a requirement set by its covenants.

Pendergrass, a Howard County Democrat, proposed the legislation after assessments on east Columbia homes increased an average of 33.4 percent last year. Assessments in west Columbia skyrocketed an average 47.4 percent.

Howard County's two Republican senators -- Sandra B. Schrader and Robert H. Kittleman -- had said they wanted the bill to be voluntary. The senators, who are not on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, had said they were not planning to offer an amendment to the bill.

Half of the Columbia Association board agrees with the senators, claiming that the state should not take away the association's ability to govern itself. The other half of the board maintains the legislation should remain mandatory to guarantee that the annual charge will be limited each year.

Last month, the House of Delegates unanimously approved the bill.

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