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Charles Village residents file suit disputing tax program


More than a dozen Charles Village residents filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the authority of a city program to collect additional property taxes in exchange for extra maintenance and security services, the latest twist in a long dispute over the practice.

Residents, who filed the suit in Baltimore Circuit Court, argue that the Charles Village Community Benefits District illegally approved the tax because at least two members of the board of directors who voted on the measure do not live in the district.

"We believe we're being taxed unlawfully," said Joan Floyd, a lead plaintiff on the suit who is also one of the city's most outspoken neighborhood advocates. "An awful lot of us are fed up."

Janet Levine, executive director of the organization, declined to comment yesterday as she was still reviewing the lawsuit.

The benefits district was created in the 1990s in an effort to improve city services. For every $100,000 in property value, a resident or business owner pays $120 into a fund that pays for sanitation and security services in addition to what the city provides.

New resistance to the program comes weeks after its proposed tax was approved by the city's Board of Estimates. The benefits district, technically a pilot program, is also expected to be re-authorized by the City Council in coming weeks.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who represents a portion of the district and who supported continuing the authority on a procedural vote in the council yesterday, is also reviewing the lawsuit.

"My experience is that [Floyd] does her homework and knows what she's talking about when she enters into an issue," Clarke said.

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