Questions Surround 'Creative Mapping' in Downtown Tax Break Deal
Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:11 PM EDT
It's a controversy that divided a downtown Baltimore community: tax breaks for a wealthy developer who plans to build out Baltimore's Harbor Point, relying on one of Baltimore's poorest neighborhood to qualify for the hefty tax break. The $1.8 billion plan calls for restaurants, retail shops, homes, a hotel and a corporate headquarters for energy giant Exelon.
But builder Michael Beatty says he can't make it happen without several tax breaks and bonuses that could add up to $400 million. Critics including Councilman Carl Stokes have serious concerns about the project - and whether it truly qualifies for tax credits - including one specifically designated for low-income enterprise tax zones.
The Enterprise Tax Zone in question did not always include the area of Harbor Point. But in 2012 the city development board asked the state to adjust the boundaries to include that area. However, surrounding neighborhoods – such as Harbor East – were too rich, and only by attaching more poverty-stricken areas, like Perkins Homes, did the newly expanded zone qualify on paper for state and federal subsidies.
The Baltimore Development Corporation defends their use of creative mapping, citing the jobs the development could create. Stokes wants to make certain at least some of the cash gets filtered to those who need it most, the residents of Perkins Homes.
The City Council must still vote on the tax break and on Stokes' resolution to help Perkins Homes. That decision could come next month.