Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Councilperson Watson Responds to My Criticism

In an earlier post concerning the senior tax cut issue, I was (somewhat unfairly) critical of County Councilmember Courtney Watson. Councilmember Watson was kind (and brave enough) to provide her side of the story in the comments section of that post. I appreciate Councilmember Watson's taking the time to read and respond to my concerns. In the interest of fairness, I want her point of view to be as visible on this blog as my criticism of her. So here is Councilmember Watson's post:
Courtney Watson said...

While knocking on doors in Elkridge during the campaign, I met many long time Howard County residents who live on land they bought 50 or more years ago.

One day, I came across a senior widow in a old house that was sitting on 6 acres of land in an area zoned for 1/2 acre homes. Her income was very low, less than any of the thresholds now being discussed. She has lived in the home for 60 years. She is having trouble paying the taxes on the land. The tax relief plan would only give her a break on the curtilage (the portion of the land that sits below the house). She was therefore, contemplating selling 5 acres to a developer because she was afraid she could not keep up with the taxes on it.

Should the tax relief plan provide her relief on the entire 6 acres or only on the curtilage? Without the tax relief will she be forced to sell the remaining land to a developer who will build 8-10 houses on it and does this serve the community well?

These are the questions I was raising in the meeting in a collaborative discussion and dialog with the other Council members and the senior tax committee.

I believe we must consider the dilemma of many of our long time elderly citizens who would recoil at you calling them a "rich person", yet the appreciation in their homes and land surrounding their homes has escalated to a point where they must sell the land because they cannot keep up with the taxes.

Feel free to contact me directly if you are unsure of the meaning of my comments.

I feel bad that I might have misconstrued some of the questions Councilmember Watson asked, when she apparently was just trying to learn about all sides of the issue, which is her duty as an elected official. So I'm sorry about that.

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