Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

October 29, 2006

Seniors tax measure is poor public policy

The seniors tax bill proposes giving seniors a 25 percent reduction in property taxes and freezing future increases for those making up to $75,000. This bill is bad public policy for two reasons.

First, it is unfair to make working families of low and moderate incomes pay for a seniors tax break. Why should a family making $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 or even $81,000 (if you consider the seniors tax break on Social Security and Medicare taxes) pay higher property tax rates than seniors making $75,000? Second, the bill won't have an impact on seniors' behavior.

Ostensibly, the rationale is that lower property taxes are needed to keep seniors from moving out of the area. However, we all know what has happened to property values. Many senior residents could easily have $100,000 to $500,000 in home equity. Seniors who want to capture their home equity by moving out of the area won't be deterred by a $500 to $1,000 tax break.

Why are Councilmen Chris Merdon and Charles Feaga sponsoring such an unfair and ineffective tax break so close to an election? Is this the leadership Howard County voters want, or is it the worst form of election-year pandering?

Douglas Kruse

Ellicott City

A vote in favor of Plaza Residences

I am anxiously awaiting the outcome of the latest round of appeals concerning the construction of the Plaza Residences at Town Center. I, and apparently many others based on the number of current reservations at the Plaza, welcome the firm of WCI to erect a first-class building in our fair city.

The property in question is too valuable to remain "green space" and given that something will be built on that property, why not a beautiful structure built by a developer who has an excellent reputation for constructing mid- and high-rise condo buildings? There are many alternatives that are much less appealing.

WCI has offered to invest capital in sprucing up the area around the lake and to make the area along Wincopin Circle aesthetically pleasing. The future residents will be paying their fair share of taxes and CA dues to help with maintaining the downtown area and the dredging of the lake, etc.

I respect the rights of the opponents to have their concerns heard, i.e., property value, view, traffic, etc. But there comes a point when one must admit they fought the good fight and however the next ruling comes down -- be done with it. There also comes a point when the opponents are infringing on the rights of others who want to see the Plaza project commence. Rulings were made, approvals were granted. The Appeals Board should not allow the approval to be overturned to pacify folks who have a different opinion of progress.

The Rouse vision that was proposed 40 or so years ago was successful. But visions and plans must change with the times. There is talk among our delegates about bringing mass transportation to the area. The kind of density the Plaza would add to the downtown area is ideal for this kind of forward thinking.

Nobody's lives will be ruined by the construction of the Plaza Residences, only enhanced. There is no view to speak of now and I should know. I live next door to the proposed construction site. Bring on the Plaza!

Marylou F. Semones


Columbia planning must move forward

For years, Columbia residents have complained about Town Center. It's not complete, it's not good for pedestrians, there are few attractions or cultural amenities. Every new construction project was a surprise as residents were kept in the dark about future development. While residents must submit home improvements for architectural review, there is no professional design review for commercial projects in downtown. The complaints go on and on.

Things had to change. Downtown needed a master plan. Ultimately, the county agreed to fund a first-ever community planning process called a charrette. A consultant developed a concept to illustrate what was interpreted were the results of the charrette. The outcome of the charrette was not a master plan, it was a concept. A focus group of residents was created to meet with and advise the highly professional Department of Planning and Zoning staff to further refine the concept and help draft a master plan. The planning staff responded to all focus group comments and concerns. Without serious deliberation, the focus group decided not to reach consensus. This left the focus group efforts and the planning staff's work swinging in the breeze.

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