- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
New proposal receives little support at hearing
By AMANDA SCOTT
Residents of Chesapeake Ranch Estates packed the room at the Southern Community Center on Tuesday night to express their views on the latest proposed tax district, with the majority expressing opposition.
More than 30 CRE residents spoke during the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners public hearing on the Property Owners Association of Chesapeake Ranch Estate’s petition to establish a fourth Special Tax District for the privately-owned Lusby community. The public record will remain open until the close of business May 28.
The proposed STD would levy an annual $250 tax per lot for the next five years, beginning in 2014. The currently extended third STD, also an annual tax of $250 per lot for the community, expires in June. There are 4,930 lots in CRE subject to the tax, which would yield a total income of $5,872,675 at the end of the five years.
The tax revenue is proposed to support roads life cycle efforts, address the speeding problem in the community and remove large areas of impervious surfaces. The proposed STD includes a timeline for how the money will be spent each of the five years and what roads will be addressed each year.
POACRE President Travis Scott said this proposed STD is “better” than any previously proposed special tax district. This one, he said, focuses on tertiary roads, which account for 39.3 miles of CRE’s 62.1 miles. In addition, the revenue will provide striped bike lanes.
Of the 33 speakers at Tuesday night’s hearing, 17 expressed opposition to the proposed STD for various reasons; chief among them were the amount of the tax and that CRE residents cannot vote if they want to implement an STD.
“The last time, you didn’t listen to the majority of us,” resident Dave Lysinger said, adding that the majority at last year’s hearing opposed the STD. “We have not as a community been given an opportunity to vote on what this is: a tax.
“... We are told it will be different this time. Unfortunately, I fear 20 years later, it will be more of the same: We need more money.”
Almost 10 opposing residents expressed that it’s difficult for many residents to afford the STD because of fixed incomes, the state of the economy and new federal and state taxes soon to take effect.
Resident Cindy Wiegard said residents already pay for roads in their homeowners’ association fees.
“I am against this. My road has been paved three times” since she moved there in 2005, Wiegard said, adding that the runoff was “flowing like mad” into her and her neighbors’ properties and homes. “It is ridiculous. Let’s stop beating this horse.”
Others who expressed opposition said they couldn’t support the STD because they haven’t seen results with the previous three STDs and that the POACRE board members “haven’t been good stewards” with the money.
Eaan Green, resident for four years, said he and his neighbors feel the STD is “unwarranted.” He said in Maryland, STD revenue is supposed to be liquidated by the end of the STD, but “I haven’t seen anything in my neighborhood that says that they have liquidated their funds from the last [STD].”
According to the Calvert County Code of Public Local Laws, dealing with STDs, any funds remaining after the termination of an STD must be applied to future STDs for the same district, returned to the property owners of that STD or applied to an STD reserve fund as agreed to by the county commissioners and the homeowners’ association.
Twelve speakers showed support for the STD, claiming it’s in the best interest of the residents, the roads and residents’ property values.
Debra Thomas said she “was very unhappy” with what she saw in CRE “and felt that a lot of this was all for naught.” She said it caused her to get involved and “much to my surprise, I found that people that actually are active now in the association seem to know what the heck they’re doing.”
The $250 tax per year, Thomas said, is less than $1 a day and less than $20 a month. “You’re here to complain about $250 to get our roads fixed. Where are you [at other meetings] when we need you — when we need you to talk about something. You’re here now because the commissioners are here now.
“... I really think improving the roads is one step in the right direction,” Thomas said.
Zane Rettstatt, a resident since 1994 and projects engineer for St. Mary’s County, said he knows what’s involved in an STD. He said in St. Mary’s, some STDs are as much as $1,000 per year for a 20-year period for the same size lot as those in CRE. “So, based on that information, a $250 a year tax for the improvement of the roads, stormwater management and storm drainage is a bargain in comparison.”
Other residents said they know people in other communities who pay more in one month for condo fees than CRE residents pay in one year.
Roads engineer Jay Hopson, who lives in CRE, said 13 miles of newly surface treated roads were completed as of Tuesday, serving 1,800 lots and 600 homes.
“If you don’t think there’s going to be anything happening, it is gonna happen one way or the other. I would like to accelerate everything so we’re done 100 percent by next spring and I think I can get there. But I need the special tax district to finish the program,” Hopson said.
Four CRE residents said it was a “well-put-together plan,” but disagreed with either the amount of the tax, the duration of the tax or taxing lots without structures on them.
Susan Laird said the plan was missing the reconstruction of Golden West Way.
“If we have another Hurricane Irene or we have another [Hurricane] Sandy, we will have people stranded in cliff houses that are not gonna be able to get out,” Laird said. “It’s something that we need to get involved with.”
Those wishing to submit comments can mail them to the commissioners at 175 Main St., Prince Frederick, MD 20678, or online at www.co.cal.md.us