COMPLICATED AS THE ins and outs of condominium conversions may be, there is a simple and compelling reason for Maryland's state senators to vote this week to sustain a veto of a condo bill that got through the Assembly last year: if enacted, the measure would preempt and overturn reasonable efforts already under way by local governments to protect apartment dwellers from sudden upheavals. Besides, there are other measures before the state legislature this year that incorporate any useful provisions contained in the bill that Gov. Harry Hughes wisely vetoed.
That bill, sponsored by Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery), cannot be amended for the up-or-down vote that is scheduled for today or tomorrow -- which is why it should be killed with a vote to sustain the veto. Specifically, the measure contains a provision that would permit developers to begin selling apartments immediately after giving notice of condo conversions. That would change the current state law, which requires a 180-day period between notifications and sales. The idea of this period is to allow tenants a decent interval in which to organize and purchase a building. Local officials add that the Levitan bill also would wreck regulations that they have been enacting to complement -- and improve on -- existing state law.
This is why there shouldn't be the slightest hesitation on the part of state senators to support the governor's veto. It is not a pro-condo-versus-anti-condo question. Once last year's faulty bill is off the table, the legislature can move on to consider better ways to protect the rights of renters as well as landlords and developers. But clearly any good state condominium law should not restrain potential improvements on it by localities. That was good reason for the veto -- and it should stick.