Some areas get excise tax break

July 19, 2005|by TARA REILLY


Parts of Hagerstown are exempt from Washington County's excise tax to help redevelopment efforts mainly in the downtown area.

The exempt areas, known as "redevelopment areas" are properties in C3 zoning districts or in Hagerstown Conversion Districts. Nonresidential areas in Enterprise Zones - designated areas in which business tax credits are available - throughout the county also are exempt.

County Commissioner John C. Munson said Monday he didn't think the exemptions were fair to county taxpayers.

"I can see their point, what they're trying to do," Munson said. "But who's to say for sure whether what's right or wrong? But I don't think it's fair."

Several Hagerstown City Council members could not be reached for comment Monday.

Councilwoman Kelly Cromer said she didn't see the county's final draft of the ordinance and couldn't comment. She said the City Council might review the information today.


"I think it's a good idea if it works," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said. "I think it'll give incentives to help some areas."

The ordinance states that areas in other municipalities might qualify for excise tax exemptions if approved by the commissioners.

Wivell said giving too many exemptions might cause problems for other taxpayers.

"The more exemptions you give, you drive prices up on others," Wivell said.

A C3 zone allows for "commercial uses appropriate in the central business district by permitting those retail commercial stores, offices, in-town personal and business services, other commercially oriented uses and residential uses appropriate for a regional downtown core," according to the city's Zoning Ordinance.

A Conversion District is a zoning designation that is placed over existing zoning designations to allow the reuse of existing nonresidential structures "to maintain and increase the city's assessable base, to expand business and employment opportunities, and to protect residential neighborhoods from excessive traffic odors, fumes, noise, and light," the city's Zoning Ordinance states.

The exemptions are part of revisions to the county's Building Excise Tax Ordinance, approved by the County Commissioners last week. Munson voted in favor of the revisions.

The excise tax is charged to new residential and nonresidential construction to counterbalance the effects of growth on schools, roads and other government services.

The tax is $13,000 per single-family home and $15,500 for every multifamily dwelling, such as a town house. Nonresidential construction is charged on a per-square-foot basis.

The Herald-Mail Articles