Wearing red shirts as a show of unity, more than 150 residents of New Colony Village in Jessup voiced their dissatisfaction to the Howard County Council last night about the bureaucratic mess that is preventing them from selling or refinancing their homes.
"While we thank them for everything they have done, unfortunately it's not enough," resident Sue Hartlaub said before the meeting.
Hartlaub and her neighbors own houses that are technically considered mobile homes, but have such features as basements, second floors and balconies. They pay a monthly rent for the lots on which their homes sit.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly identified the body that will consider the request for zoning variances for the residents of New Colony Village in Jessup. The Howard County Board of Appeals will hear the case May 18.
The Sun regrets the error.
Their problem is that the lot sizes and configurations do not meet county regulations for individual sale and ownership. As a result, financiers were reluctant to approve mortgages or refinance loans, and many New Colony owners have been unable to sell their properties.
Some have been forced to abandon them, yielding to foreclosure when job transfers or other situations arose.
In 2003, county officials tried to fix the situation by changing rules for communities such as New Colony, but the legislation did not answer all the violations that the development would create. Last week, county hearing examiner Thomas P. Carbo presented another setback -- denying a request by New Colony's developers for zoning variances to subdivide.
"We have followed a procedure, a procedure we believed would bring closure," Wayne Newsome, one of New Colony's developers, told the council last night. Although council members have supported the efforts for New Colony's residents, he said some parts of county government have not.
"If any of these residents had asked for these variances, it would have been approved," he said after the meeting.
East Columbia Democrat David A. Rakes, who represents the area, told the residents that the council would continue to work to solve the problem.
"You will own your own home, and you will own the land," he told them before asking council members to stand with him in solidarity for the residents' plight.
A hearing on a motion to reconsider the examiner's decision has been scheduled for May 18, Newsome said. Rakes said after the meeting that if Carbo does not change his opinion, the council will pursue expedited legislative remedies.
Because the council is in the midst of its annual budget approval process, Rakes can introduce legislation at its May 21 legislative session, said Council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a Savage-North Laurel Democrat. A public hearing will be held before the next meeting on June 7, and the five councilmen can vote on it that night.
In other action, the council voted unanimously in favor of a $1-a-square-foot excise tax on new homes for school construction that was approved by the General Assembly.
The council's three Democrats -- Guzzone, Rakes and Ken Ulman, who represents west Columbia -- also voted to table a bill that would gradually eliminate the amusement tax for two private golf courses. Guzzone said the bill could be considered along with the council's other deliberations on the budget.
"The lost revenue was not programmed into the budget," he said after the meeting. "It would be irresponsible not to figure out what it would cost in terms of reductions to the budget" before voting on it.
Western Howard Republican Allan H. Kittleman disagreed. "I think it's better to do it now," he said. "We'll know what revenue we're going to have."