Montgomery County's state delegates have approved County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist's proposal to charge a new county tax to developers who convert apartment buildings to condominiums.
However, in two meetings over the past week, the delegates have been unable to agree on three other bills that form the rest of Gilchrist's program to control condominium conversions in the county.
The condominium tax proposal, which along with the rest of Gilchrist's package is the product of a year of work by the County Council and a special study commission on condominium conversions, was passed by the delegation in an overwhelming 16-to-3 vote. Only Dels. Robin Ficker, Joseph Owens and Lucille Maurer voted against it.
The bill, which still must be approved by the full House and Senate, would allow the County Council to impose on condominium developers a tax of 4 percent of the value of each rental unit being converted.
After quickly approving the new tax last week, however, the delegates still stalled over the rest of the condominium package, meeting for a total of three hours on Friday morning and Monday night without voting on the three other bills, or even agreeing on how they should be worded.
One of the remaining bills would broaden the amount of information a developer would have to disclose to the county before completing a condominium conversion, while another -- which is expected to become the most controversial -- would allow the County Council to give a tenants' organization or a county agency the right to purchase a building proposed for conversion.
A final bill is designed to allow the county's Housing Opportunities Commission to help finance new construction of rental units in the county. In theory, this lending would be supported by revenues from the proposed condominium tax.
The delegation is not expected to take action on the three remaining bills until tomorrow at the earliest, and may extend its deliberations over another week.
"The delegation is going to take its time, because they know they are on the cutting edge of a new area of law," one county official predicted early this week. "We're establishing precedents here, and that makes them nervous, whether they like the concept or not."
Even if the delegation approves the remainder of the Gilchrist package, county officials say the bills could face stiff opposition ahead from House committees, the House floor and the Senate.
For Gilchrist, a crucial factor will be whether the legislature's leadership designates the package as a local concern -- which would prompt House members to pass the bills as a courtesy to the county delegates -- or whether they will become a statewide issue subject to the interests of statewide political factions.
The bills would face much stiffer opposition, county officials say, if they are not designated as a local matter, and could very likely be killed before reaching the House floor.