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Housing task forcepresents its plans

October 06, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

Most people know what is causing housing problems in Washington County, said Richard Willson, chairman of a housing task force that formed in April.

People from urban areas are traveling west to find more affordable housing, and as housing prices rise, Washington County residents are being priced out of their own backyards, he said.

On Wednesday, Willson and nearly 20 task force members explained their plans to allow residents with median incomes to afford moderately priced homes.

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The group received little feedback - only two residents spoke - but Willson said the group will take the suggestions, along with comments from County Commissioners, and improve the 32-page document they sought public comment on Wednesday.

The recommendations range from down payment assistance to amending the excise tax ordinance. Willson said current codes and ordinances that increase the cost of housing could be changed.

The task force will meet two more times before it presents its recommendations to the commissioners Oct. 25, he said.

Willson said he began taking suggestions from residents before the public hearing at Washington County Circuit Court.

One resident told him the figures the task force used for the median home price in Washington County - $240,000 - were incorrect, he said. It is possible that figure is only for July 2005, he said.

Willson said he was not sure about the figure, but the task force would review it before submitting a final draft.

Daniel Moeller of Keedysville submitted many points outlining both good and bad ideas found in the task force's recommendations. Moeller said he spent six hours reviewing the document before speaking publicly about it.

"This report virtually ignores rental properties, does ignore starter homes and proceeds with the assumption that every worker is entitled to live in a median-priced home and that anyone who needs financial assistance to do so should be subsidized by the rest of the county residents," he said. "I do not agree with this assumption."

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