The Board of Aldermen will take more time to study a proposed ordinance set to give senior city residents a break on their property tax bills beginning in 2019.
The proposal, which Alderman Roger Wilson and Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak co-sponsored, was initially placed on the board’s public hearing agenda Thursday for a vote, but Mayor Michael O’Connor pulled it. According to an email from Wilson, the other three members of the board — aldermen Ben MacShane and Derek Shackelford and Alderwoman Kelly Russell — requested more discussion and information.
“Of course, I am disappointed with this legislative delay to get much needed tax relief to many of our senior city residents,” Wilson said in the email. “However, the good news is we have more time to gain support for this proposal.”
The issue is set for a second workshop at 3 p.m. June 27. At the first workshop on April 11, the elected officials hashed out the details of the request and took public comments. Four members of the public spoke in favor of the proposal in the workshop, citing positives such as the ability to allow seniors to age in place due to the savings.
The aldermen did not exactly come to a consensus at the workshop, though. While Wilson and Kuzemchak stood by the legislation, Russell had concerns about the cost of implementing the program, which was estimated to be between $157,000 and $1.15 million annually. MacShane expressed concerns that the program helps only seniors, not all low-income residents, and Shackelford questioned what officials are doing to help not only senior homeowners, but all seniors.
The proposal would give a 25 percent property tax credit beginning in 2019 to senior homeowners who are 65 and older and have combined annual incomes of $55,000 or less. The elected officials also discussed during the last workshop raising the age to 70 years old and lowering the income cap to $50,000, but did not come to a decision.
Duk Hee Ro gets another fine
Downtown property owner Duk Hee Ro owes the city an additional $500 for a violation at the building that once housed That Cuban Place at 300-304 N. Market St.
Assistant City Attorney Scott Waxter said Ro was due in court Tuesday as a principal of building owner Julia & James Properties LLC for a Historic Preservation Commission violation regarding improper window replacement at the downtown property.
After a lengthy wait in Frederick County District Court, Waxter said that Ro’s case was called, but she had already left. So he asked for a judgment, and the judge ordered her to pay $500 plus court costs for the violation.
The fine is one of many Ro has been issued for her long-vacant and blighted properties downtown. Just last month, Ro went to trial for a similar violation at the former Asiana restaurant building at 123-125 N. Market St. The judge found her guilty of violating the city’s historic guidelines by repainting the brick without commission approval, and then attempting to remove it improperly. That violation also earned her a $500 fine, which Waxter said she has since paid.
Ro’s properties were also in the news last week in a story about the now-defunct Property Revitalization Committee’s final report. Members of the unofficial third “blight committee” met for a year and ultimately came up with a number of recommendations to help address vacant and blighted properties citywide, including a recommendation to put the city’s receivership ordinance in effect at both 300-304 N. Market St. and 123-125 N. Market St.
No word yet on anything that has been done on that front besides some “conversations” O’Connor said he has had with city staff members. I assume we’ll be finding out in the coming weeks whether anything will come of it.