What is the “recreation user fee” on my tax bill?
The Recreation User Fee funds the operation of the GHCP Sanitary District. Every property in Glebe Harbor and Cabin Point that was registered with the County as an individual lot on January 1st has been assessed the same fee. The fee was determined by dividing the Sanitary District Budget that was approved by the Board of Supervisors for the current year by the number of lots as of January 1st. In 2018, that’s about 1375 lots.
You mean I have to pay twice if my house is on two lots?
Yes, unfortunately. But there is a consolidation process you can use to avoid paying twice in the next tax year if you complete the process before the end of December. Check out Lot Consolidation on the GH-CP.org web site, under the General Information & Forms tab.
What are the amenities can I use?
The GHCP Sanitary District amenities include four beaches, two boat ramps, an outdoor pool, an outdoor wading pool, two tennis courts, a picnic area, playground equipment, a basketball court, and the clubhouse.
Are these amenities open to all taxpayers in the County?
No. The Recreation User Fee is assessed only on properties within GHCP, and the money collected can only be used for purposes of the Sanitary District and the benefit of the property owners in these two communities. Property owners are also welcome to attend Association sponsored social events. Please check the web site for specifics as some events have limits on the numbers of participants and may have associated costs.
What is a Sanitary District?
A Sanitary District (SD) is a legal designation for a specific geographic area administered by the County’s Board of Supervisors for specific purposes. A neighboring community, Placid Bay, formed a sanitary district after their dam failed and the community was unable to raise the money to rebuild the dam.
The Glebe Harbor/Cabin Point Sanitary District was formed to assure ours remains a water access community, and to operate and preserve the amenities owned and managed by the voluntary POA for the benefit of all property owners. These include boat ramps, navigable channels, ponds, beaches, clubhouse, tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, and the picnic pavilion.
Establishment of the GHCP Sanitary District was approved by the Westmoreland County Circuit Court on May 4, 2016. The order was premised on the core argument that the formation of the GHCP Sanitary District (1) establishes a sustainable, predictable financial structure which assures the long-term operation, maintenance, and capital management of the recreational assets within the SD; (2) benefits all property owners by providing well-maintained community recreational facilities and amenities that increase the fair market value of their properties; and (3) affords all property owners within the SD the opportunity to use the community recreational facilities.
Is it related to the sewer project?
No. The names of these two projects are confusing. The sewer project is a county sponsored initiative to improve sanitation and wastewater management which benefits the county at large. Connecting to the sewer system is optional; property owners can choose not to connect.
The Sanitary District is a taxing district formed for a specific purpose, in our case to assure that the unique waterfront and water access amenities and the recreational facilities of our community are well-maintained, thereby preserving the fair market value of all properties within the subdivisions. Every lot within GHCP is part of the Sanitary District and will be assessed the corresponding recreation user fee. It is not voluntary.
Why did we need to establish a Sanitary District?
While initially all property owners were members of the voluntary property owners association, over the past 50 years many property owners have chosen not to maintain their memberships. It was the voluntary contributions of those property owners who remained members that maintained the natural resources and infrastructure (e.g., beaches, waterways, and recreational facilities) of the GH-CP communities. That model could not be sustained. The costs of assuring inlets, creeks and beaches in both subdivisions remain navigable and maintained now and in the future became too high to be carried by the approximately one-third of residents who were voluntary members of the POA.
The purpose of this Sanitary District is to provide all property owners within the District certain services and amenities, and full access to all community amenities for all property owners. The Sanitary District creates a revenue stream to fund the costs of management, operation, maintenance, improvements, and preservations of the community amenities, including the costs associated with beach and shoreline management and restoration, dredging of creeks and rivers to maintain existing uses, and maintenance of boat ramps and facilities, and other community recreational facilities. All of these assets and amenities contribute to the property values of all properties in the community.
What might have happened if we had not succeeded in establishing a Sanitary District?
Without the Sanitary District, our water access and amenities were at significant risk. The voluntary Association just spent $160,000 in 2016 to dredge the inlets and nourish the beaches. Structural improvements like breakwaters and geo-tubes reduce the need for dredging and ultimately save money, but are costly up front. We estimated in 2016 the additional work needed to protect the inlets and beaches would exceed $400,000. The work actually completed July, 2018 cost over $500,000.
Why are all residents required to pay, especially if we don’t use them?
Even if you do not use them, the presence of navigable waterways and other amenities adds value to every property in GHCP. GHCP was developed because of its proximity and access to water. The value of every property is increased by the option that people have to use the beaches, boat ramps, and waterways. The same can be said for the Clubhouse, swimming pool, and other community amenities, whether individual owners use them or not. And the value of every property would suffer if the waterways become unusable, if the beaches erode, and if the other amenities were to fall into disrepair.
Under the Sanitary District, we have a sustainable foundation to preserve them, and all owners have access to all amenities for the cost of their recreation user fee. The lower cost – compared to a $1000 initiation fee, and $340 annual dues under the voluntary POA – benefits families who may have found the higher costs unaffordable.
I’m confused about the budget. It seems like early on I was paying twice, and some people were getting a free ride.
The transition period to establishing the Sanitary District was confusing.
The dues paid by the voluntary members of the POA in May, 2016, paid off the existing dredging loan and covered expenses to operate all facilities through 30 April, 2017 (the end of the former POA fiscal year.)
The Recreation fee all property owners paid in December, 2016 funded the Sanitary District Budget approved by the Board of Supervisors in August (for the County 2016-2017 Fiscal Year, July 1, 2016- June 30, 2017.) That budget had two major components. It paid for SD operations May 1 – June 30, 2017, and it allocated about $210,000 to dredging, waterway management, and beach nourishment.
In the process, we got the Sanitary District and the POA fiscal years and budgets in sync with the County budget cycle, and we got a jump start on the major reason for establishing the SD – to keep Glebe Harbor and Cabin Point a well-maintained waterfront and water access community. This also reduced future borrowing to complete needed dredging, waterway management, and beach nourishment, which reduced overall costs and budget pressures. And in this transition period, it simply was reasonable to open the boat ramps, beaches, tennis courts, and social events to all property owners.
No SD tax (recreation user fee) dollars were spent before all property owners have access to all facilities.
What is the role of the GH-CP Association?
The Glebe Harbor-Cabin Point Association owns the recreational facilities, assets, and amenities of the two subdivisions. It leases those facilities and recreational amenities to the county for the purposes of the SD. Under a management agreement with the County, the Assocation manages day-to-day operations and maintenance. All property owners within the GHCP Sanitary District are also members of the GHCP Assocation.
The Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors is the governing body of the Sanitary District.
How will future Sanitary Budgets and Recreation Fees be established?
In February, the GHCP Assocation Board of Directors proposes an SD budget to the County Administrator. The proposal is based on input from members and an assessment of the funds required to maintain and operate the recreational assets and facilities leased to the Sanitary District. The County Administrator will consider our proposal in the context of other demands on the County and recommend a budget he feels appropriate to the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors will advertise the proposed County budget, including the SD budget and recreation user fee, and schedule a public hearing at which all property owners may express their views. At the end of the process, the Board of Supervisors makes the final decision.