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Realtor criticizes code enforcement

May 05, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A public hearing held Tuesday to discuss the City of Hagerstown's property tax rate turned into an attack on the Code Compliance Office.

The hearing started with City Finance Director Alfred Martin saying that the city would gain an extra $1.5 million in new real property tax revenues if the property tax rate stayed at 78.8 cents per every $100 of a home's assessed value.

After Martin finished his presentation, Realtor Tim Light took the stage.

Light said he represented several Realtors and investors.

The city should consider making more cuts, he said, rather than relying on property owners to create tax revenue. Light suggested starting with the Code Compliance Office because its employees turn away investors by using strong-armed tactics.

He compared the Code Compliance Office to the Gestapo and the Nazis.

"Code Enforcement killed property values," Light said. "Everyone knows not to invest in the City of Hagerstown. It's not profitable."

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Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean said the Code Compliance Office serves a valuable purpose by ensuring that people maintain their properties.

Light said the city's Zoning Office served that purpose in the past and could resume those responsibilities.

The Code Compliance Office is comprised of some of the finest people in the city, and to have someone compare them to Nazis doesn't deserve a comment, Chief Code Enforcement Officer John Lestitian said in a telephone interview after the public hearing.

Lestitian said the Code Compliance Office's "core values" are "professional, fair and consistent."

"It's what we live up to and what we do," Lestitian said. "It's an important part of maintaining public safety."

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