A Chesapeake Ranch Estates resident who opposes another Special taxing district in the private community speaks with Commissioner Mike Hart after an April 9 public hearing.

Lusby, MD – For the six time in 21 years, leaders of the Chesapeake Ranch Estates’ (CRE) homeowners’ association board have requested Calvert County officials to collect a special tax for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing roads and infrastructure. The levy being requested by the Property Owners Association of Chesapeake Ranch Estates (POACRE) is $275 per lot, per year for four years. The tax is a $25 per lot increase. According to the POACRE petition, 4,800 lots are subject to the tax. The proposed STD would $5.055 million.

A public hearing on establishing a sixth special taxing district (STD) in CRE was held Tuesday, April 9 at Southern Community Center. The Calvert County Commissioners, who will make the final decision on the requested STD, presided over the hearing, which was moderated by County Attorney John Norris.

During his presentation at the start of the hearing, POACRE Board President Travis Scott stated that the sixth STD, which would start July 1—the beginning of fiscal year (FY) 2020— “will continue with tertiary roadways while maintaining the strides achieved in the previous STDs.” The tertiary roads comprise the largest segment of roadway in CRE, over 39 miles. Those roads will be upgraded with “slurry seal,” a blend that mimics tar and chip. Scott said $400,000 would be needed for dam projects.

In defense of the higher levy, Scott declared “we’ve done everything we could with the money collected.

As it usually does, the proposed STD drew support and opposition from the property owners in attendance.

“We need this taxation but it should not be permanent,” said former POACRE Board President Ed Harvey, adding it would be better if CRE were a municipality.
“We will always need them (STDs),” said Cathy Zumbrun, the POACRE Board treasurer. “Roads are not ‘one-and-done’ projects. We can’t afford asphalt.”

“We do need the money down here in CRE,” said Charles Mahanes, adding that the bayside community “is the largest subdivision in the state of Maryland. We need it badly.”

“There’s no other alternative,” said Chris Moody of the STD.

Some of the critics of the STD contended that the crews paving the subdivision’s labyrinth of roads have done shoddy work. “It’s an amateur operation,” declared Bill Conway, adding that CRE’s roads are marred by potholes.

Longtime resident Jim Priddy indicated that for all the money POACRE has received from property owners paying the STD levy, not much progress has been made. He asked the POACRE board, “can you do more with what you have received?”

“I think the county and Dominion ought to give us the money for our roads,” said Mark Giuffrida, who added that the STD projects are all caught in the county government’s slow permitting process.

“Somebody should be there to inspect it,” said longtime resident Myra Campbell, who indicated members of the CRE community living on fixed incomes shouldn’t have to pay for substandard road work.

Scott came forward during the public comment segment to adamantly defend the quality of work that has been done in the community. The homeowners’ association president stated that CRE management does use professional contractors and an engineer to complete the projects. He also chided critics who do not regularly attend POACRE board meetings when budget items and projects are discussed. Scott was heckled by some of the STD opponents during his remarks.

One county commissioner took the opportunity to address the citizens. “People have been feuding about these roads since I was a kid,” said Commissioner Mike Hart [R-District 1]. “We want quick fixes.” Acknowledging that some of the STD heartburn was fueled by the three roadway classifications, Hart stated, “there has to be a plan to get everybody equal. We need a plan that everybody wants here.”

One aspect of the STD that wasn’t widely discussed at the hearing was how its implementation makes CRE eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid. As a private community, the STD is the only way the community can get disaster relief from the government.

The four commissioners present voted unanimously to leave the record open until close of business April 19 with a decision to come prior to the start of the next fiscal year.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com