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Majority of Hagerstown City Council favors total annexation of split parcels

July 12, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

After postponing a vote on a resolution to annex 95 split parcels, the Hagerstown City Council Tuesday landed right back where it was a month ago, with a majority of its five members favoring total annexation.

Council members and Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II attempted to compromise Tuesday, offering numerous annexation alternatives to satisfy the interests of the city and property owners.

However, the only option three members could agree upon was annexation of all 95 split parcels with no special conditions.

A split parcel is a property through which the municipal boundary line passes, putting only part of it within city limits.

To take advantage of the state law authorizing split-parcel annexation but to also satisfy objecting property owners, Bruchey proposed that the council:

  • Annex all 95 properties
  • Provide all city taxpayer services
  • Remove the county tax differential
  • Not impose additional city taxes until either the property transfers ownership or an addition is made to the footprint of the building or new structures or features are added to the site, whichever happens first.
Councilman Forrest W. Easton suggested combining Bruchey's proposal with a recommendation from city staff members to amend the annexation to create two new resolutions.

The first resolution would be to annex all but the 11 properties owned by those who objected to annexation during the public hearing in April, according to city documents. The second would be to annex, with or without conditions, some, all, or none of those 11 properties.

Easton said he would like to see all but those 11 parcels annexed immediately, and Bruchey's plan followed for them.

Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said she favored annexing all 95 parcel but that she could support Bruchey's proposed conditions if a 10-year maximum on the deferred taxes was included.

"In my mind, annexing all of them and providing for a 10-year moratorium on taxes ... is reflective of most of our polices for commercial annexation," she said.

She said she favored the tax deferral cap on all 95 parcels.

"We're muddying up the waters here in assuming that just because a person objects, that person can receive a different tax rate from everyone else," Haywood said.

"I think we have to provide the most across-the-board motion as possible because the more exceptions we make to particular circumstances, the more we open ourselves up to (property owners questioning) after the fact, 'Wait a second, why are they receiving everything that I am receiving and why am I paying taxes? Because I didn't object?'"

Councilman Martin Brubaker characterized the mayor's proposal as providing all the city services but not collecting any revenue for it.

When asked his position by Bruchey, Brubaker said he favored annexing all 95 parcels with no conditions.

"I think we have a fiduciary responsibility as city elected officials to say, 'It's a good thing to be in the city of Hagerstown, we need to expand our tax base, here is a one-time opportunity to do it, let's do it,'" he said.

But if he could not get majority support for his position, he said he could work with some of the suggestions made Tuesday.  He said he could support Haywood's 10-year maximum on the 11 objected properties, but not all 95.

Breichner supported Brubaker's position to annex all the properties with no conditions. Between survey work and staff time, the city probably has $80,000 invested in the annexation, Breichner said.

"I doubt very much if we will get $80,000 in taxes," he said. "I'm in favor of all of them."

It is not for the council to determine what is in a property owner's best interest, Metzner said. He said he could support annexing the 84 properties of those who did not object, or Easton's proposed compromise.

"If people who own property don't want to be annexed into the city they should not have to be," he said. "To tell citizens who own their property, who have lived there or had it for a long time, 'We're making you annex against your will,' I can't vote for that. I could live with Forrest's proposal."

When her 10-year tax deferral cap on all 95 parcels received no favor, Haywood said she would support total annexation with no conditions.

The council will vote on the annexation resolution on July 26.

On June 22, Haywood moved to table the annexation for further discussion. It passed 3-2, with Bruchey casting the final yes vote. Metzner was absent on June 22.

State law gives the city until the end of September to annex split parcels and the city must approve annexations by the end of July to meet the deadline.

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