Legislator have reached a stalemate on a bill that would make it harder for country clubs in Montgomery County to qualify for property tax breaks.
With a little more than a week left in this General Assembly session, the legislators are unlikely to resolve their differences and the debate is expected to carry over into next year's assembly.
Under present law, country clubs whose owners agree to preserve open space for 10 years or more are assessed at a lower rate than other land -- $1,200 per acre for land that is not used as a golf course or otherwise developed.
The bill, proprosed by Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery County), would extend the period of time a country club must keep the land undeveloped from 10 to 25 years. It would penalize clubs that breach the agreement but would not require that their land be assessed at fair market value.
Eighteen country clubs in Montgomery County now are assessed at the special rate. Land totaling 3,733 acres is being assessed at the $1,200-per acre rate.
Some local legislators are attempting to do away with tax relief for country clubs, a step they say would bring an additional $1.3 million a year in tax revenues.
Del. Luiz Simmons (R-Montgomery County) introduced a bill that would tax all country club land at 50 percent of fair market value, at rates comparable to those of homeowners and businesses.
Local senators voted against that bill last December and passed Levitan's bill, MC220, as a substitute.
The delegates amended MC220 to read that country clubs' tax rates would reach 25 percent of fair market value rate over the next three years, and added a right-of-first-refusal clause.
The senators rejected those amendments and sent the bill back to the delegates this week. Both local senators and delegates must approve Montgomery County bills before they can be acted on by the entire General Assembly.
"At this point, we've got the budget, major tax legislation, and double sessions. It's very tough to deal with complex issues that come over from the local delegates at this late date," said Levitan.
"The basic concept and support for the bill is to preserve the open space. The money that would be gained (by raising the assessments) would be little," he said."It only takes one club to close and sell its property into development and the revenue loss by the county for having to support services form the new community would far exceed the $1.3 million revenue gain."