Too Big To Fail

Dear Reader,
They didn’t like calling this a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) and neither does Gilbert. It’s a tax waiver, is what it is! The city is excusing a landlord from paying his share of city taxes. However, the landlord in this case is wearing a halo, so we can’t be our usual Scroogey self.

The landlord is the Maryland Housing Partnership (MHP), a nonprofit group that provides affordable housing. So, of course, the city wants to help them out. It balked, however at the generous deal MHP wished to make – generous on the city’s side, that is. Giving up $48,000 yearly in these financially stressed days was just too much for the council to part with – not for ten years in a row, as was requested.
Now, Scram!
The city whittled the deal down to a five year plan, waiving smaller amounts than the MHP asked for. They also got tough, showing their biceps, chewing on toothpicks, and grunting monosyllabically. They added a phrase limiting the Parkview Towers management from ever ever ever coming back to ask for another waiver. The phrase reads, “Beat it! No more handouts! Don’t let us catch you on this street corner again, see?” or something like that.
Resident Barry Lee Howard came to the podium to point out that there are currently a number of PILOTs keeping revenue from the city’s coffers. He said he found ten. But when Mayor Bruce Williams turned to city housing director Sarah Daines and asked “Do we have that many PILOTS?,”she said they are not all active. Some have expired, she said, and others never went into effect due to the sale of the buildings. 
No Resonation
Councilmember Robinson said that though he was and still is against it in principle, he would vote for it because Parkview Towers is in such bad shape. Due to its size and location its renovation is important to the city. In other words it is too big to fail.
“It got me thinking,” he said, the city enforces housing code on single-family homes, and the city inspectors’ focus is on the exterior of those houses. The county enforces housing code on multifamily buildings, and the county inspectors’ focus is on interior of each unit. So while the county made sure the units were livable, Parkview Tower’s infrastructure deteriorated. “Something is not resonating in this scenario” he said.
Sara Daines replied that Parkview Tower’s structural problems are due to its age, not to faults with the housing code. She said the building’s infrastructure problems, which include leaky pipes and a malfunctioning elevator, are “a common challenge everywhere,” for properties of similar age.
Though county inspectors make multifamily building code inspections – a cheaper option than having city inspectors do the job – it is the city’s code they enforce, Daines said. The same code covers single family homes.
The November 29 vote for the tax waiver (PILOT) was unanimously in favor.
More exciting coverage of the last session of the year later, Dear Readers!

– Gilbert


About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

1 Comment on "Too Big To Fail"

  1. Barrie Lee Howard | January 7, 2011 at 11:10 pm |

    Sara Daines confirmed there are 6 active PILOTs in place this fiscal year; 2 expired and 2 were not executed (but were approved). Next year 7667 Maple will be added, making 7, valued at $61,195 worth of lost revenue.
    – Barrie

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