- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Drum Point and Chesapeake Ranch Estates property owners will be paying $150 and $250 beginning July 1, respectively, per property per year as part of each community’s Special Tax District fee.
During Tuesday’s Calvert County Board of County Commissioners meeting, the board approved the fourth STD petition for Drum Point for a four-year period and extended the third STD in CRE for an additional year. Neither petition was approved as originally written by their respective property owners’ association.
Drum Point’s final fee a drop from proposal
Drum Point Property Owners Association’s petition was originally for $166 per property per year for the next two years.
The commissioners approved an annual levy of $150 per property that will expire June 30, 2016. County Attorney John Norris said that the STD can be amended during the four-year term.
DPPOA President Gary Heal said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t say it was disappointing” that the amount requested wasn’t approved.
He added that what was happening wasn’t an increase in the residents’ taxes, “but a repeal of the temporary tax decrease.”
Heal seemed hopeful about the DPPOA’s abilities to make the $150 work.
“We can tighten our belts a little more and make the $150 work. ... But I’m relieved it didn’t go like it went three years ago,” when the commissioners approved a mere $50 fee per lot.
Resident Carolyn Ebel said she was pleased the commissioners changed the term to four years because she didn’t feel two years was adequate for progress.
However, Heal pointed out that although the STD was approved for four years, the DPPOA can “come back at any time and ask for a change.”
But, Ebel said she was not happy that the board overlooked a petition objecting to the fee increase that was signed by 300 of the 800 residents.
Tricia Powell, former member of the Drum Point Board of Directors, also is concerned the voices of the 300 residents weren’t heard by the BOCC.
“It’s a 200 percent increase for these property owners, and they weren’t heard. [The board’s] focus should be on keeping our tax dollars down.”
Powell said she is happy the board made the STD for the next four years “so [the board] can’t push it up.”
“[The board of directors members] are trying to get neck and neck with CRE, and for them to bring this community up to that standard is ludicrous.
“There is a lot of flimsy spending. It’s like they think they need to spend it, or they’ll lose it,” she said.
The funds are to be used “solely for the purpose of road improvements, infrastructure related to roads as approved by the Calvert County Department of Public Works and administrative and maintenance costs and expenses associated with roads and road infrastructure,” according to the motion by the board.
Resident Fran Borsh said she was “pleased” the BOCC approved a four-year plan and that they regulated the funds to be spent only for roads and road infrastructure and maintenance.
Also according to the motion, the board approved that administrative and maintenance costs and expenses of the STD be initially funded by the unexpended funds of the third STD in the amount of $30,000. The remaining unexpended funds from the third STD must adhere to the terms and conditions of use for the fourth STD.
Powell said she hopes the board of directors can come up with a detailed five-year plan that includes “a very good inventory and street analysis” of each street in the community so residents can see where the STD money is going and what is being fixed.
Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said that when making the decision about the amount of the STD, it “needed to be realistic with the cost, but the goal was not to tax people more than is required,” noting that the storm water management updates were going to be costly.
Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said that he doesn’t philosophically like increasing taxes, but that even those opposed to the petition said $50 per year per property wasn’t enough to maintain the community.
Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) said that this particular STD for Drum Point has been “less contentious than those of the past” and that he stands by his position on the use of the STD funds for the purpose of community roads and “all that goes with that.”
“I’m very glad that Commissioner Clark urged the Board of Directors of Drum Point to reach out to the community because there is so much dissention which the board has caused,” Borsh said.
However, Powell feels that the BOCC “can tell [the board of directors] they need to get to know their community until they’re blue in the face.”
CRE fee to stay flat for fiscal 2013
The original STD petition from the Property Owners Association of Chesapeake Ranch Estates was for a fourth STD in the amount of $260 per property for the next five years.
However, based on public comment and the original petition, the commissioners voted to extend the current third STD for the same amount — $250 — for an additional year.
Resident David Lysinger, who is running for POACRE president, said he is disappointed the commissioners didn’t reduce the fee with the one-year extension.
“With the amount of reserves we have in the account, I don’t see why they couldn’t have suspended it for a year,” Lysinger said.
The same terms and conditions will apply for use for this next year as currently exist for the third STD.
As part of the extension, the commissioners directed the unexpended funds from the third STD — about $3.7 million — be used for the “county approved projects of the Red Eye Loop and the sight distance project at Bull Whip and Cattle Drive,” according to the commissioners’ motion.
The use of the remaining unexpended funds is still under the same terms and conditions as the existing STD.
Norris said that of the two STD petitions, the POACRE petition was the more difficult to make a decision on because of the unexpended STD funds of about $3.7 million.
“I think it’s a fair compromise and a good decision on behalf of the commission,” said POACRE President Travis Scott.
Shaw pointed out that she owns three properties in CRE, and so the STD affects her as well.
“What I have seen is that the community has stabilized,” she said, and that CRE has already paved about half of its roads.
Commissioner Steve Weems (R) agreed with Shaw, but added that the “$3 million in their account needs to be spent down.” Weems pointed out that only about 1 percent of CRE residents spoke at the June 12 public hearing regarding the STD.
Lysinger said, “If the 1 percent are the only ones who show up, then they’re the ones who care.
“[The commissioners] may have heard us, but it’s just a funny way of showing it.”
Slaughenhoupt said that he wanted to greatly decrease the requested STD fee, but only extending the current STD for a year “should really catch the attention of the board of the directors down there.”
He said he hopes that this additional year will give the POACRE board of directors time to make next year’s STD petition better.
“I don’t agree with the extension, but I support the motion,” Slaughenhoupt said.
Clark said that he is “greatly concerned” that he’s only seen one member from the POACRE board of directors throughout the process and that he was at the public hearing speaking as an individual.
“These communities are only going to be as good with this STD as their board members,” he said, adding that he’s not criticizing the board members.
Clark said he would like to see a new petition at the start of 2013 to have more time to “vet it out.”