Issues - Postings

February 2013

Bill 5 - 13

Bill 5 - 13 was introduced by Councilman Tom Quirk at the request of the County Executive for the purpose of authorizing expanded residential development in the MD 43 Overlay District.

About ten years ago, this Overlay zone was designed to attract businesses to create jobs and provide an alternate route to I 95 from the Middle River area. One of the goals was to attract Businesses related to the Base Realignment (BRAC) that was relocation of defense businesses to Ft. Meade and the Aberdeen areas. The investment of approximately $45 million did not produce the BRAC results and the recession of 2008 further reduced job creating opportunities for this area.

One part of the Bill authorizes up to 30% of a tract under certain conditions to construct residential units. Their position is that this will create activity after work hours so that the area would be more attractive to prospective businesses owners. A "campus" type development was mentioned as a possibility for this area.

A second part of Bill 5 - 13 provide a process to achieve the objective which is terrible legislation that should automatically cause any responsible civic or environmental organization to oppose the proposal. The bill states that once a pattern book that is in compliance with the laws is submitted, the Director of Planning or an Administrative Law Judge "May allow waiver or modification of any laws, regulations, requirements, or policies governing zoning or the development of the property." This is a proposal for no planning at all and rejects the concepts in the Master Plan, Local Area Plans, and the reason behind the Comprehensive Rezoning Map Process (CZMP).

The work session on February 12, 2013 allowed comments and amendments to the legislation were introduced. The BQCA Board, acting on behalf of the BQCA membership and for the good of the Community, has requested that the Bill either be withdrawn or tabled so that the amendments can be discussed with the general membership and the other citizens in the area to provide feedback to the County Council before this legislation is voted on.It is our understanding that other community organizations have taken a similar stance.      

The Shores at Salt-Peter Creek

Mr. Altfeld, the representative for Southern Land Development, will be presenting a proposal to replace an approved  plan for a development consisting of 94 detached individual family homes with plan for 480 "upscale" apartments with an additional 200 bed senior facility. The site for this proposal is the northeast corner of Carroll Island and Keeners Roads.

Mr. Altfeld is scheduled to speak at our February General meeting to explain the concept and benefits to our community. The will also be a opportunity for attendees to ask questions and state their comments on this proposal. 

Bowleys Quarters Gateway PUD

Mr. Michael Archer and Mr. Ray Jackson are proposing a PUD consisting of 120 unit complex at the northeast corner of Bowleys Quarters and Carroll Island Roads to replace the existing Welding Shop and Boat Repair business. Additional rental homes are proposed along the southern edge of the property which would have a density unit equivalency of another 72 units. Additional amenities are also planned for this ten acre site. 

The proposal is scheduled to be presented to the public at the March General Meeting. 

"Coping with the Maryland Real Property Assessment Process"

The real estate tax assessment process is very subjective, prone to errors and can result in significant differences in annual property taxes for similar properties.  Assessor judgment errors, improper categorization of property structures, mixed zoning uses (residential and commercial uses) and inaccurate base values all contribute to confusing and inconsistent valuations.
A few actual examples in our Bowleys Quarters community:
o    1 1/2 story home with high pitched roofs with open attics for storage - sometimes are assessed as additional living space square footage, yielding a much higher assessed value to the homeowner.
o    outbuildings - garages, sheds, in-law suites or second residences - what they are called radically affects extra land value AND accessory structure value; no standard exists.
o     houses elevated over a detached garage (now required by building code) might be called an "in-law suite" and could be valued far less than the same structure located at ground level with no garage (called a second residence).  On an accessory lot, the structure is now appraised as a complete new residence and could easily be assessed at $400K + in value - looking at the identical structures two slightly different ways.
o    living quarter's outbuilding with a garage door is called a garage even though it is a living structure ONLY!  Lesson learned - put a false garage door on every structure!
o    recreational outbuildings with kitchens and bathrooms might be labeled as sheds (as they have no garage door).  Imagine 50 feet x 20 feet sheds on an adjacent lot assessed as an accessory shed.  Difference in value?  $480K!  One assessor calls it a shed; another calls it a house.  The difference in terminology represents a difference of $4500 a year in real estate taxes.
o    3 living strutures on 4 adjacent large waterfront lots - one assessor sees 2 garages and a house; another assessor sees 3 houses on 3 lots.  Difference in value? - $1.05M.
o    some adjacent lots are listed at a buildable lot price while others are simply listed as additional land.  Difference in value? - $126K for some identical properties, $323K for others.

Current "basis land values" are frequently incorrect - i.e. the average sale of waterfront lots in our community for 2008 was $226K but the state assessment office uses a $323K base value, in defiance of the past 3 years trend.  The trend is downward land values but the state has the values as increasing and valued almost 50% higher than actual sales.

The assessors do not consider the sales of foreclosed houses in their overall analysis of community values.  However, these sales are legally valid and reflect what someone paid for the property.  By ignoring these sales, the assessors ignore all of the lower cost sales; thus, falsely inflating land/house values.

When does a kitchen/kitchenette constitute a house?  Knowledge or perception of one can radically affect the overall value.  The County calls anything with a bathroom a living quarters, whether it has a  ktichen or not.  The State assumes a garage with a bathroom is not necessarily a living quarters, but might be an "in-law suite", or it simply might just be called a garage, based on the opinion of the assessor.

Next, if they deem a property has a commercial use (whether residential, commercial or mixed used) outbuildings on the property could be a second house, a shed, or both.  Consequently, mixed uses could capitalize on a commercial designation.  Imagine a boat club with an outbuilding - a clubhouse, a second residence, or an in-law suite - all the same identical structure -totally dependent on the asssessor's designation.  Therefore, mixed uses, which are often found on the water, result in wildly varying assesments on similar properties.

The net result?  What you call the outbuilding could drastically affect your assessment.  Assumptions can lead to huge differences in taxation.  Consistency?  Almost as good as trying to get a permit to do what your neigbor did only to find out that you are denied, limited or open to negotiation.  Is this a great County or not?  WL / HKZ