St. John's Commons PILOT

The Havre de Grace City Council Monday approved a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, or PILOT, with St. John's Commons. (RECORD FILE PHOTO, Homestead Publishing / April 4, 2013)

St. John's Commons is receiving a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement with the City of Havre de Grace, after the city council approved the petition Monday and also passed tighter regulations for PILOT agreements in general.

St. John's Commons, which provides housing for the elderly, was already approved for such an agreement with Harford County in February 2012.

The PILOT agreement will allow the nonprofit to make annual payments to the city on a per-unit basis, rather than paying city property taxes based on its property's market value.

The actual amount St. John's Commons will pay still must be negotiated between the operators of the development and the city, Finance Director George DeHority said Thursday. Under the agreement the complex has with the county, the annual per unit payments began at $175 and are due to rise in $25 annual increments until the sixth year (2016), after which there will be an annual increase of 3 percent per unit.

DeHority said he will be involved in the negotiations, along with Council President Randy Craig and City Attorney Paul Ishak.

Havre de Grace's new PILOT regulations that were passed Monday mandate that the agreements not exceed more than 20 years and that the property owner pays full water and sewer connection charges, first enters into a separate agreement with Harford County, provides the city with an annual audit and pays either an agreed percent of the actual tax due or an agreed per-unit charge that includes annual increases.

Ishak explained that the last requirement is because the city wants to ensure "some type of consistency from one PILOT program to another."

"Under the current regiment of PILOT programs, we have several out there that are just very hard to calculate," he said. "It is an administrative task to even calculate what PILOT payments are."

Craig said the council realized it had some very old PILOT agreements and none have been done in a while.

St. John's Towers, another Havre de Grace facility providing housing for the elderly, also had a PILOT agreement with the city, which was done in 1985, according to DeHority.

About the old agreements, Craig said, "we had to untwist them, legally speaking, to bring them into sort of a usable agreement."

The city now has four or five and they are all done very differently, he said.

"We'll have some guidelines that the council can follow moving forward in the future," he said about the resolution.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty excused himself from the vote on the St. John's PILOT. His brother owned the land off Pennington Avenue where the facility was built.

Growing farmers market

The Havre de Grace Farmers Market is considering expanding and wanted to move to a slightly more visible location but met resistance over the latter, the mayor and council members were told.

Market organizers were considering moving from Pennington Avenue to the 200 block of Washington Street.

"Unfortunately, not everyone's in agreement on this," Bill Watson, with Havre de Grace Main Street, Inc., explained. "There's been a little bit of pushback and I understand that."

"I dealt with this for First Fridays for while," he said, adding he thanked market organizer Scott Wallace for his work and hoped the council would "continue to pay deference to [an] organization [Main Street] that promotes our downtown as a whole."

"We don't have individual concerns. We believe the rising tide floats all boats," he said.