Montgomery County's private country clubs are crying "fore" at a proposal by State Del. Luiz Simmons to end their preferential tax status, which Simmons claims is costing the country $1.2 million in lost revenue this year alone.
A bill proposed by the Montgomery County Republican would assess 3,751 acres of unimproved land occupied by 19 country clubs at 50 percent of market value, like other commercial proberty, instead of at the 11 percent rate they currently enjoy.
At a highly charged public hearing Thursday night, Simmons called the 14-year old tax break "profoundly inequitable and unfair," and said it amounted to a public subsidy for the 15,000 people who belong to the private clubs.
The law was passed originally to stimulate expansion of country clubs and open space, rather than to keep clubs from "selling out to commercial or residential development," remembers the sponsor of the 1965 law, former delegate Roy N. Staten.
But tha's exactly what will happen if the tax break is abolished, club representatives told the Montgomery state legislature delegation which will decide next week whether to back the controversial measure.
"You're being penny wise and pound foolish," said Dexter Kohn, President of the Country Clubs of Montgomery County.
Kohn said that in exchange for a subsidy he estimated at about $5 from each estate taxpayer in the county, the clubs have provided valuable open space, substantial economic contributions and enhancement of the quality of life in the county, which help attract business.
Eliminating the tax break, he said, would drive some clubs out of business this year with or without the tax break, but did not identify the two.