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Ecker to request 5% tax on stays in motel or hotel


Charles I. Ecker, the Howard County executive-elect, said yesterday that he would ask the county's General Assembly delegation for legislation that would allow him to impose a 5 percent motel and hotel tax to be paid by lodgers.

The tax, if approved by the General Assembly, would generate approximately $1.2 million annually, some of which would be spent to promote tourism, particularly in the county's historic areas, said Beverly Wilhide, Mr. Ecker's chief aide.

Five jurisdictions in Maryland already have such taxes -- Anne Arundel County and the city of Baltimore, 6 percent; Baltimore County, 8 percent; Prince George's County, 10 percent; and Montgomery County, 5 percent.

Ms. Wilhide said the Ecker administration, which takes office Monday, probably would face some opposition to the proposal from "some of the smaller motel operators," who opposed a previous bill for a motel-hotel tax.

"The larger hotel and motel operators have indicated support for it," she said.

Delegate Robert H. Kittleman, R-Howard, said a bill for a 5 percent hotel-motel tax failed two years ago because of opposition from lodging operations along U.S. 1, which rent rooms for the week and month, often to work crews.

"Some of these operations said they would have to close down if the tax were imposed, and there was a feeling these facilities served a useful purpose," Mr. Kittleman said, adding that the chances of a new bill's passing would depend on how it affected small motels.

Delegate Robert L. Flanagan, R-Howard, chairman of the county's House delegation, said he expected the legislation would exempt "economically marginal motels providing housing for those on lower end of economic scale."

Mr. Ecker also announced yesterday that he had appointed a committee, including developers, citizen activists and public officials, to draft new legislation to restrict development where roads and schools were overburdened.

Mr. Ecker has said he wants "a simpler, more equitable" bill for adequate public facilities than the one advanced by the outgoing administration of Elizabeth Bobo. The County Council took no action on Ms. Bobo's proposal.

The Republican executive-elect said the bill would be filed next month. He said Michael W. Davis, a lawyer who played a key role in his campaign, would head the committee drafting the legislation.

Also in the group are Barbara Cook, county solicitor; Lee Cunningham of Cunningham & Associates; Jim Eacker, vice president of the Howard County Citizens Association; Scott Hoeksema, president of the Coalition of Citizen Associations; Jim Irvin, county public works director; Maurice Kalin, associate superintendent of schools; Rosemary Mortimer, president of the county's parent-teacher association; Joe Rutter, deputy county planning director; and Jim Schulte, vice president of Security Development Co.

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