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Task force votes to eliminate exemption for elderly housing

September 05, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN

The county's excise tax task force on Wednesday voted to recommend eliminating elderly housing exemptions from Washington County's residential excise tax.

The change is the first formal step the task force has taken to reduce what many people have called loopholes in the current excise tax ordinance.

The recommendation, which was unanimous among the nine task force members at the meeting, would slash the 70 percent discount currently given to home builders ages 55 or older and to developers building elderly housing.

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The county's residential excise tax is charged on new home construction. A majority of the tax goes toward public school construction projects.

The discount for elderly housing was included in the county's current excise tax ordinance because people ages 55 or older usually do not have children in the school system, according to county officials.

But the exemption produced a surge in permit applications for elderly housing projects as developers looked for ways around the county's excise tax, said Daniel Divito, director of the county's permits and inspections department.

Divito said the county has approved 500 elderly housing units under the exemption. The year before the exemption was created, the county approved no elderly housing developments, Divito said.

"The problem is that the county has no way to ensure these units stay elderly housing after they are built," Divito said.

Since the task force began its weekly meetings in July, its members have discussed cutting some excise tax exemptions, which many have said are being abused.

The task force has discussed eliminating exemptions for home additions and workforce housing developments but did not vote to recommend those changes at Wednesday's meeting.

The task force was created under a law passed by the Maryland General Assembly to recommend a new excise tax structure to the Washington County Commissioners by Sept. 30.

The current tax is a flat fee of $13,000 for single-family houses and $15,500 for multi-family houses. Developers building more than 25 houses in a subdivision pay twice that amount.

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