I had reported back on August 13th that real estate agent Paul McGarigal desired to levy a tax on a certain portion of Orange County residents to beautify certain areas around his central Florida investment properties. McGarigal had gone as far as to get fellow West Orange Chamber of Commerce member (and board member) Commissioner Scott Boyd to try and get the ball rolling - a public backlash resulted when local news WFTV ran a story explaining that McGarigal wanted to tax the thousands of property owners in Boyd's district. In response to the report, Boyd told local residents that he had no intention of starting the process to create a special taxing district called a Municipal Service Benefit Unit.
First, let me point to some inaccuracies in the original WFTV post that need some clarification.
One issue is that the continually refer to the area as being outside McGarigal's neighborhood, with the news showing images from local middle class subdivisions, implying that he is a resident, but McGarigal actually lives in a wealthy neighborhood a few miles away from those subdivisions in a million dollar home - McGarigal does own various investment properties in the subdivisions surrounding his neighborhood, where he also sits on the local homeowners associations' board of directors.
Here is a screen shot of McGarigal's real neighborhood:
McGarigal is hoping to get everyone to pay a tax to make this strip (below)
look like this stretch:
As a side thought, consider the fact that a majority of the area McGarigal wants beautified consists of a stretch of grass roughly two feet wide planted with flowers and trees. Because of its size and close proximaty to the black road, any planting would require plenty of irrigation in order to overcome the residual heat eminating from the street.
The second issue is that WFTV, Paul McGarigal, and Scott Boyd have all stated that others have been interested in creating a special tax district, but the only one who seems to be in support of the area would be McGarigal. Who are these other supporters?
The third issue with the WFTV report is that they state that "commissioners would consider the tax if 67 percent of voters approve it, no matter how many actually mail it back" - that is false. The tax will get passed if 67% of the returned ballots are in approval, meaning if only 30 homes (out of the 5000 to be taxed) return their ballots, and a majority (16) of those ballots are in favor of the tax, the tax will get passed with less then 1% of approval.
Here is what Commissioner Boyd wrote to one resident who happens to live in a neighborhood that would be affected:
First, please allow me to emphasize that an MSBU, or Municipal Service Benefit Unit, for the landscaping of Apopka-Vineland is, at this point, simply an idea that is being explored by community members. As such, there would be several critical steps to accomplish before it would ever come before the Board of County Commissioners for consideration.I also thought it was interesting to point out that Scott Boyd, who represents the area in question, does not live in the proposed tax district - he lives just outside where the MSBU would take affect and after reviewing property records, it does not appear that residents who live near the already beautified medians are paying any special tax for their flowers and trees, meaning the those enhancements in Boyd's neck of the woods are being paid for by everyone else.
The first and foremost of these steps for me, along with the appropriate staff, is to research the feasibility and conduct the necessary due diligence. Once we define if there is even a workable concept, we would then have to determine if the community residents want it. It would therefore be my intention to hold several community/town hall meetings to give ample opportunity for residents to understand ALL of the information and provide their input in response. Please be assured that your correspondence is welcome in the meantime, as the purpose of running the story on WFTV (8/10/10) was to begin a conversation with the community.
As already stated, a potential project of this nature requires a fair amount of research, which takes time. With that said, I wouldn’t anticipate holding a community meeting until at least the first quarter of 2011. It would not be until after such meetings that we would consider sending a ballot to the area residents for a vote. I am cognizant of how costly this process would be, and I will not spend taxpayer dollars on distributing a ballot unless it appears to have a majority of community support.
As you may already be aware, an MSBU is a measure that would require at least a 67% approval by the residents who return their ballots. In other words, it is a tax that you, the homeowners, would decide on. Were it to receive the required votes in the community, then and only then, would it come before the BCC for the final approval.
Isn't that just lovely?
If McGarigal wants to improve property values, he should start with his investment properties' neighborhoods:
Maybe he should start by planting flowers and trees in front of his subdivisions first - I'm sure a couple flowers will keep foreclosures at bay, which by the way is a stupid argument. If an area is hit hard by foreclosures, what makes McGarigal, who is supposedly an expert real estate agent, think that higher property values will help improve situations - people can't pay for their homes as it is!
Contact Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd and tell him Dr. Phillips doesn't need anymore taxes.
Update - I thought this fact may be interesting - Paul McGarigal may be interested in this proposed tax and the belief that paying this tax may increase property values because McGarigal owns ten properties in the tax district, all but one running up since he acquired them (his house in Sand Lake Hills is over $100,000 in the red). McGarigal is currently profiting from all his properties to the tune of $759,906 - a year ago that total was over $1,000,000. If the housing market continues to trend downward, McGarigal stands to see his investment properties break even with his initial investment.
Why is someone who has already profited off the housing boom pushing to increase property values at a time when many of his "neighbors" are struggling to get by unless he has something more to gain?
Remember - McGarigal is a real estate agent, so if his neighbor's do foreclose, he can potentially make money off of their loss. He may even pick up their property for a steal...