25-Year Property Tax Breaks for Developers: Are They Necessary?
Submitted by Tamara Davis Brown; Clinton, MD
Do you want a property tax break? I certainly do, but the County Executive wants to give a property tax break to developers for a period of 25 years! Does this seem fair? It does not seem fair to me, but before I explain my rationale take some time to review the legislation for yourself (PG 418-12): http://www.princegeorgeshousedelegation.com/ (go to Legislation tab).
The Prince George’s County House Delegation Chair, Delegate Melony Griffith, introduced local legislation on behalf of the County Executive to give developers a 25-year property tax break for developers who will: (1) develop transit-oriented development within one-mile of a County Metro Station or 1/2 mile of a MD regional commuter transit station; (2) a revitalized tax credit district; or (3) an urban renewal district designated by the County Council. Sounds good so far, right?
However, did we think about infrastructure costs that usually accompany such developments? The bill is silent on who pays the needed road and other infrastructure improvements surrounding those sites. Prince Georgians and Marylanders will be paying for nice road improvements (exits) around the beltway for National Harbor as part of the Wilson Bridge improvement projects. Shouldn’t the bill specifically require developers to pay the infrastructure costs? Did we think about the schools needed to accommodate the mixed use facilities and multi-family residential units (i.e., code word for “apartments”) that the legislation proposes? What about parking? The bill will give developers the same 25-year property tax break for building an off-street parking facility for 250 spaces. Is a 250-space parking garage large enough near our Metros where you also want to add office and retail? The bill proposes a job requirement for a retail establishment of 100 jobs? Really, why sell us so cheap? We need more than 100 jobs for County residents (I think I personally know about 1/3 of that amount that need a job right now). The County’s ask of the developers is impotent.
Most importantly, consider the fact that the County is losing revenues due to high unemployment and high foreclosures. Do we really want to break the backs of taxpayers (middle class) by supporting a 25-year property tax credit for rich developers solely for the purpose on luring them to the County? Developers will see a return on their investment after about the first five years of development, yet Prince Georgians are asked carry the tax burden for another 20 years. Should we be paying for bond bills into perpetuity to finance the needed infrastructure? So I ask again, is this fair?
I support Mr. Baker’s efforts to bring commercial dollars to our County, but if we don’t see the return in our investment until 20+ years later, long after he will be out of office, it’s a no gain for the County. Is the loss in commercial property tax revenue, which is much higher than residential, worth the County’s investment? The County is now armed with a $50 million economic development fund that should provide some assistance to developers, but the proposed property tax break is too long.
I think it should be shortened to seven years (the balance of Mr. Baker’s time in office, assuming he will have two terms) so as to not tie the hands of future County leaders and to ensure that commercial dollars are coming into the County’s coffers sooner. The incentive would still be present, but have less burden on taxpayers.
If you agree with my assessment, please call, write or email your state Delegate and state Senator to ask that this local bill, PG 418-12, be amended to shorten the tax benefit to developers to seven years and to strengthen the bill with more requirements of developers. The MD General Assembly reconvenes on January 11, 2012 for the 2012 Legislative Session, so there’s no time to waste. Contact your legislators today.
Still in the fight to do what is right.