Thursday, October 2, 2008

Comment to Fifth and Oh: Holding Your Nose

It has been pointed out that Mr. Sendar is still not paying the vacant properties taxes on his long vacant building in Shaw. Why does Mr. Pedro and Mr. Evans demand that variances be given instead of demanding that the correct taxes be paid? Why are they all carrot and no stick? How many other "developers" are getting by without paying the proper rates? Time and again, Mr. Evans is pressing for loopholes and variances, and handouts for developers with threats that progress will bypass the community if such and such isn't done. The Convention Center was supposed to lift up the community; it didn't. In contrast, just look across the river to working class immigrant communities in Arlington. Every single commercial building is being used. Shops are thriving. People are working. They aren't stuggling under high property assessments because some "developer" held out for an unreasonable sum or subsidies, i.e., TIF.

I usually refrain from commentary on this blog and just try to present the facts and information for others to take action. Now that the laws have been changed, there are no more excuses of simple government ineptitude. It is time for a serious criminal investigation into the millions of tax dollars that have gone unpaid.

Below is my comment posted to Fifth and Oh:

Now that DCRA and OTR are finally making vacant property owners pay the higher tax rate, Mr. Sendar gets all concerned about selling the property. This shows that high vacant property taxes, when enforced, do have an effect; something Jack Evans doubted when I testified before the subcommittee last year. It is not holding a grudge to expect a property owner to obey the laws like everyone else. The only thing stopping him from selling the property now at a reasonable price is his greed. In fact, there is no guaranty that he will sell if he gets the variance. His only incentives are the high taxes and perhaps fines for violations of the vacant building maintenance standards (still waiting for enforcement).

Giving a variance now only increases the price of vacant property which in turn stifles small business development. Who can afford to buy this building and rehab it? Since assessments are based in large part on recent sales prices in the neighborhood who can afford to pay the higher property taxes? Granting a variance now to a speculator helps only the speculator and hurts everyone else.


Anonymous said...

The vacant property laws should be changed so that if someone sells the property, then it gets a six-month exemption going forward from the tax rate if during that period the new owner obtains a building permit or otherwise shows progress towards making the property not vacant (e.g., a contract with an architect).

Or at a minimum there should be a retroactive exemption if construction begins within 1 year.

Either would make it easier to sell these properties, and that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

It's already there, pretty much if you do anything w/ the property it's not vacant.,A,1342,Q,640818.asp