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'Extreme Makeover' home on city's tax-sale list -- by mistake

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" volunteers building the Boys Hope Girls Hope home for girls in Baltimore.
(Jed Kirschbaum / The Baltimore Sun)

Among the thousands of homes the city says are in danger of going to tax sale in May: the massive dwelling built in 2010 by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" volunteers for the girls of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore.

But the nonprofit group's inclusion was a mistake caused by confusion over whether it qualified for tax exemption and therefore owed no property taxes. The city's list of tax sale candidates, released this week, showed $20,000 owed on the Fleetwood Avenue property in Northeast Baltimore.

When I called the group this morning to ask what the city said they owed, since surely (I thought) it couldn't be property taxes, business manager JoEllen Robinson said: "Please tell the city of Baltimore that!"

"The state has said, 'Oh yes, you're tax exempt,' and cleared us," she said. "And sent notice to the city."

Robinson said this is the second year the city threatened tax sale.

"I've only been here a year, and when I started, I started with a tax sale notice on my desk," she said. "So we paid it, and then they paid it back. … It's confusing."

Robinson said she thinks the problem might have to do with timing. The nonprofit got the OK to occupy the home in October 2010, "but the deadline for applying to be tax exempt is September, when obviously we didn't have a house. So I think that started the confusion."

UPDATE: Robert E. Young, director of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, says his agency made the account tax-exempt beginning last tax year. But before it received the application and made the switch, it had reassessed the property to account for the pricey new construction and the city issued a tax bill, he said.

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"Apparently, this bill amount for outstanding ... taxes still exists in the City's system," Young wrote in an email.

The assessments agency will send an email to the city finance officials today "advising them to zero out this odd amount of taxes owed so that the property does not show up in the tax sale list," he said.

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SECOND UPDATE: The city's Finance Department confirmed this afternoon that the property will not be included in the tax sale because it is in fact tax exempt.

Other than the tax-sale headache, "things are great" with the 11,120-square-foot house, Robinson said. Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore, part of an international nonprofit that brings at-risk children with drive and potential into group-home-style settings, was selected by Extreme Makeover because it had a home for boys but not yet for girls.

The girls are thrilled with their home, Robinson added. "They love it."

Tip of the hat to reader Charles Fitzpatrick, who lives in the area and noticed the house on the list.

Got a housing news tip or experience to share? (Or just want to tell me something?) Email me at jhopkins@baltsun.com.

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