A compromise has been reached that will leave present Maryland laws governing condominium conversions in Montgomery County intact for a year while the issue is studied by a state commission.
The compromise agreement between Maryland County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist and state Sen. Laurence Levitan (D) will halt action on three bills in the General Assembly here. A move to enact new laws followed a wave of condominium conversions in Montgomery last year that sparked concern among county officials over shortages in rental housing and the rights of tenants in buildings proposed for conversion.
Levitan, a frequent supporter of condominium owners and developers has pledged to halt an effort to override a veto of a bill that would eliminate the current requirement that developers wait, 180 days after giving notice of a conversion before selling units.
In return, Gilchrist has agreed to Levitan's proposal to postpone consideration of two bills that would have increased the control of the county government and tenants' groups over efforts to convert apartment buildings to condominiums.
Gilchrist introduced those measures as part of a four-bill package of condominium legislation this year. They will be sent to a newly revived state commission to study condominium law, which will consider them over the summer.
The compromise between Levitan and Gilchrist, announced at a press conference today, will not affect the two other bills introduced by Gilchrist this year, one of which would allow the County Council to levy a tax on condominum developers of 4 percent of the value of each rental unit they convert.
Both Levitan and Gilchrist said they were happy with their agreement, which prevented a confrontation between opposing forces on the condominium issue in the State Senate this afternoon.
"It's an advantageous arrangement," Levitan said. "It would have been a battle, there's no question about it, and I felt we didn't need to have that battle. Now we can take time to carefully review this whole area."
"It's a year's breathing space," said Gilchrist. "And it's a breathing space under the regulations that we wanted to keep."
The condominium issue, which has been debated statewide but is primarily important in Montgomery County, came to a head this week as the Senate prepared to vote on whether to override Gov. Harry Hughes' veto of a bill eliminating the 180 day delay required of developers.
Gilchrist and his aides have spent the last week lobbying against the override, while Levitan, a powerful Senate committee chairman who helped sponsor the measure last year, gathered votes to support it.
For dropping his attempt to have his bill exacted, Levitan won (Gilchrist's agreement to postpone bills that would give tenants' groups or county agencies the first right of refusal to purchase a building proposed for conversion and broadened the amount of information developers would have to disclose to the county.