I was not aware that HoCo charges a mobile home site rental tax. In a county that has a policy to encourage affordable housing, it is really unconscionable that such a regressive tax is charged on those with the least amount of money. I read some of the written comments on the bill from those who live in a mobile home park. Their testimony is really poignant. One person wrote:
I support the CB55 Bill because my family is struggling. Not having to pay the rental tax would mean so much to us. Every year everything goes up except our income. We are barely putting food on our table. We watch TV by using rabbit ears because we can’t afford to pay for TV. We have the “pay as you go” cell phones because we can’t afford the contracted ones. We cook on an electric burner because we can’t afford gas to use our stove. We cant always see our doctor when we are sick because we can’t afford our copay. Rental tax may not seem like much, but that money could go towards food every month or copays when we need to see the doctor.
Another person wrote how they did not have any money for car repairs. It is really surprising that this awful tax has quietly existed for so long. Why did it take until 2018 for a bill for repeal to be filed?
However, I feel that the transition in CB55 will cause much confusion for a very vulnerable population. The bill repeals the tax retroactive to July 1, 2018. However, the bill also takes effect in 61 after enactment, which depending upon when the bill is passed, could be a period from the end of September to the beginning of November or December. So before the effective date, the taxes will still be due. However, some people will be saying, “no the tax is repealed from July 1, 2018.” I assume that the Department of Finance will send refunds for the taxes collected after July 1, but some clearer language and attention to a transition plan is needed to notify the owners of the parks and the renters of the mobile home sites. The tax is collected as part of the monthly rent by the mobile park licensee from the renters of the mobile home park sites. How will the tax be refunded to the renters of the mobile home park sites and not become a windfall to the mobile home park licensees?
CB59-2018 “AN ACT amending the General Plan for Howard County (“PlanHoward 2030”) by adjusting the Planned Service Area” has the standard provision in most Council Bills that the sections are severable. Normally, this section would serve to fulfill the will of the Council to allow the remaining sections of the bill to take effect if one section of the bill were to be declared invalid by a court, However, in this case, that clause actually undermines the overall intent of the bill, and it must be stricken.
Plausibly, the only section that might be held invalid is Section 2 which protects the County and the community from changes to the PSA if the Erickson Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is not constructed. It sets a 3-year time limit on Zoning Board action and a 10-year limit on constructing a sewer and water connection.
Section 1 is the operable provision modifying the PSA. If it were stricken, the rest of the sections are effectively moot.
Section 3 amends PlanHoward 2030 and is meaningless if Section 1 is invalid. Declaring Section 3 invalid would leave a change to the County Plan unamended; this is nonsensical.
Section 4 is the invalidity clause itself.
Section 5 is the standard language that the bill takes effect in 61 days.
Thus, Section 2 is the only section which might logically be declared invalid. At the Planning Board, Erickson’s counsel William Erskine referred to it somewhat inaccurately as “a poison pill.” Whereas a poison pill normally is used by a corporation to protect the status quo and thwart a takeover, the provision is Erskine’s idea to promote a development change in Clarksville and was written to assuage opposition to the PSA expansion; it is really a condition subsequent. This provision which he drafted is necessary to fulfill the overall intent of the bill to authorize construction of a CCRC and CANNOT be severed from the remaining parts of the bill. It would actually serve the intent of the Council and the stated position of Erickson (unless Erskine actually believes this is all game play and that he can have Section 2 declared invalid down the road) to amend Section 4 to state that “it is the intent of the Council that Section 2 is integral to the operation of the bill and if for any reason Section 2 or its operation is declared invalid by any court of competent jurisdiction than the entire bill shall be null and void.”
The Board of Elections completed the canvass of provisional and additional absentee ballots Thursday July 5. In the race of County Council District 1, Liz Walsh received 66 votes to Jon Weinstein’s 33 votes. After last week’s absentee canvass, Weinstein lead by 37 votes. The additional votes for Walsh has cut Weinstein’s lead to just 4 votes.
There were no over votes and 31 under votes of voters who expressed no preference in this race.
Final absentee canvass is scheduled for Friday morning.