Council passes `green' tax credit

Balto. Co. measure intended to encourage building of energy-efficient commercial buildings

July 04, 2006|By JOSH MITCHELL | JOSH MITCHELL,SUN REPORTER

Owners of commercial buildings that meet a standard for energy efficiency will receive a tax credit under legislation approved by the Baltimore County Council last night.

The council also set up a hearing process for people accused of environmental violations and banned the parking of recreational vehicles on residential streets.

All three measures passed by 6-0 votes, with Republican Councilman T. Bryan McIntire absent.

The tax credit would be as much as 100 percent of a property tax bill and applies to so-called "green" buildings, which are designed to conserve energy and have a minimal impact on the environment.

To qualify for the credit, a building would have to achieve a silver rating by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, who drafted the bill that authorizes the credit, said he knows of several buildings in the county that would qualify.

The county auditor estimates that the credit will cost the local government $130,000 next year and $7.5 million over the next 10 years.

The county would issue the credits on a first-come, first-served basis, and would give no more than $1 million total in credits a year.

The aim of the credit is to encourage the construction of green buildings, which typically are more expensive to build, said Gardina, a Towson-Perry Hall Democrat.

"It's something that I think will really set a tone for new building performance," he said.

Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, added: "Every bit that we can help save, it's better for the environment and it makes us less dependent on foreign fuels."

In other action, the council voted to empower a county hearing officer to review citations for environmental violations and determine fines.

Violations include illegal construction on wetlands, damage to streambeds and the destruction of protected trees. The county has had to take the violators to District Court to issue a fine, a process that can take months.

Having a hearing officer review violations will enable the government to issue fines more quickly and thus be more effective at deterring violations, said David A.C. Carroll, the county's environmental chief, in testimony before the council last week.

Under a separate bill, recreational vehicles such as campers and travel trailers will be banned from residential streets, except for a 24-hour period for loading and unloading.

Gardina, the bill's sponsor, said he has received many complaints from residents whose streets are clogged with such vehicles.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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