Jay Fergusonjay@deepcreekvacations.com301-501-0420

Vacation rental agencies voice opposition to tax increase

OAKLAND — Garrett County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt said he was surprised by the amount of opposition Tuesday from local rental housing representatives to the county commissioners’ request to be able to increase the hotel rental tax from 5 percent to 8 percent.

Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel attended Tuesday’s public meeting to hear the commissioners’ wish list for the 2010 General Assembly and to see if they could help those desires become political reality. Should such legislation become law, it would enable, but not require a tax increase.

At the current rate of 5 percent, the tax brings $1.5 million into the county, according to Wendy Yoder, director of finance. “Each percentage increase above that will generate another $300,000,” Yoder said. She based that estimate on existing rental activity.

That revenue, according to Commissioner Fred Holliday, can be used for two purposes, for economic development or the funding of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.

Nancy Railey of Railey Mountain Lake Vacations used an extensive and detailed presentation to oppose a hike in the tax.

Railey said rental fees for people visiting Deep Creek Lake have been negotiated to bargain basement prices. “I have never before seen this,” she said. “Tourists are responding to these price cuts and will travel more in 2010 than in 2009. However, they will demand rate reductions of 1.8 percent greater than the reductions in 2009, continuing the decline for another year.”

Railey said the number of reserved nights at her company have declined below 2002 levels and the fact that her market share (45 to 50 percent) has held steady reflects that other hosts have experienced the same drop-off.

Railey said the visitors will come, but when they have to spend a dollar more because of a tax hike it will be a dollar that is not spent on local goods and services.

Pagenhardt said the potential for a tax hike was not news to the local rental moguls.

“This legislation was introduced in the 2009 General Assembly. In fact, they knew that if the bill passed it would increase the tax to 6 percent this past July 1 and many agencies had already booked rentals based upon that amount.”

The bill, however, did not pass, because of what Beitzel called a last-minute administrative foul-up in Annapolis.

Others opposed a hotel rental tax boost.

Rob Michael, chairman of the board for the chamber of commerce, said he misses the golden days when Deep Creek Lake was visited by families with small children. He said those visitors can no longer afford a lakeside vacation. “Have we priced ourselves out?” he asked.

Michael referenced Big Bear Lake in neighboring Preston County, W.Va., as a place that still offers such family trips. “We don’t see that dynamic any more,” he said. “Be careful. Increasing the tax even 1 percent is a detriment. Word is out. A vacation in Garrett County is getting to be expensive.”

Ruth Seib of Coldwell Banker said she is not sure that raising the tax would bring additional revenue because of a combination of fewer visitors and declining rates.

Bill Weissgerber of Railey Realty asked that the $300,000 that would be generated by a 1 percent increase in the tax be raised by resurrecting a tax on beer in the county.

Karen Myers, owner of The Wisp/D.C. Developers, cautioned the commissioners to be very careful in considering an increase in the tax. “Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” she said.

Edwards and Beitzel said they would once again introduce the enabling legislation if it is the desire of the commissioners.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Maryland weighs revising park pet policy

CUMBERLAND — Going to the park is a popular group activity, and visitors to Maryland’s state parks may soon be able to bring even more of their friends along.

The Maryland Park Service has begun taking public comments on a proposed plan to revise its pet policy and expand pet access in state parks.

According to the Maryland Park Service, the proposal was developed based on comments from park staff and visitors over the years.

Under the proposal, pet prohibitions in many of the parks throughout the state will be reduced. Parks that will allow pets greater access include Deep Creek Lake, New Germany State Park and Dan’s Mountain.

In particular, New Germany had previously prohibited pets entirely. Under the current proposal pets would be allowed year-round on trails and in the Pine Camp loop. Between Labor Day and Memorial Day weekend, pets will be allowed in the day-use area and lake.

Parks that will not be affected by the proposal include Big Run, Herrington Manor, Rocky Gap, Swallow Falls and Youghigheny Wild River. The policy already allows for pet access in these parks.

“We’re going to compromise with various opinions,” said Lt. Col. Chris Bushman, deputy superintendent of the Maryland Park Service. Bushman said that the Maryland Park Service has received comments with pro-pet and anti-pet views and intends to use them to fine-tune the proposal and address the unique nature of each park.

Park managers will still be able to prohibit pets from certain facilities in areas where they would otherwise be allowed, such as visitor centers and playgrounds. The policy will not affect service animals, which will still be allowed in all areas of the park open to their owners.

Bushman emphasized that the existing policies requiring pet owners to keep their pets on leashes and clean up after their pets will not change. “The park rangers and Natural Resources Police are on-site at these parks in the developed areas,” said Bushman. “We will not allow people to break those rules.“

After comments from the public and other parties have been reviewed and any necessary changes made, the new policy will be put into effect in early 2010.

Comments on the pet policy may be submitted online at http://dnrweb.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/petpolicy/comment.asp and through mail at Pet Policy Comments, Maryland Park Service, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401. Comments will be accepted until Nov. 30.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Park ranger receives award for helping save man’s life

Frostburg resident recently transferred to Deep Creek Lake

From Staff Reports
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Maryland Park Ranger David Best, who recently transferred to Deep Creek Lake State Park, was among several staff members of Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary’s County who were honored with Maryland Park Service Valor Awards for their quick response in aiding a park visitor who suffered a life-threatening laceration.

The incident occurred in August when the victim dropped a razor-sharp fillet knife that lacerated his lower right leg.

Best, a resident of Frostburg, initiated a team response and rapidly located the victim at a campsite in the Hoffman area of the park after park staff received an emergency call for an unknown injury in the park. Park rangers were assisting a tractor-trailer that was stuck in a ditch when the emergency call was received. The only word heard by responders was “man” before the call was lost.

Responders, campground Host Ed Dugans and seasonal ranger Joe Raley found the 79-year-old victim sitting upright and bleeding profusely.

While Dugans and Raley worked to cut off the blood flow, seasonal employee George Gatton arrived with Best and began more extensive first aid. Park Rangers Bill Moffatt and Cliff Puffenberger provided escort for responding Natural Re-sources Police officers and the Ridge Volunteer Rescue Squad. The victim regained full consciousness and was transported to a nearby hospital.

Individuals awarded recently at the Maryland Park Service Employee Field Day at Gunpowder Falls State Park in Baltimore County included Best, Raley, Dugans and Gatton.

Maryland Park Service Superintendent Nita Settina said, “Once again, we see why it is so important that our Maryland Park rangers are trained as first responders. I’m very proud of the rangers’ quick thinking and action, which helped to save a life.”

The Valor Award is presented to individuals who perform an extraordinary action which is attributable to saving a life, attempting to save a life, preventing or attempting to prevent property or revenue loss, or involving public safety.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Friends of Deep Creek seek to protect lake from degradation

OAKLAND — Friends of Deep Creek Lake, a Garrett County watershed organization, submitted a proposal for the creation of a Deep Creek Lake Restoration Fund at the Tuesday meeting of the Board of Garrett County Commissioners.

The proposal came about in response to the aging of the Deep Creek Lake reservoir, which was created by the construction of the Deep Creek Dam in 1923. According to Friends of Deep Creek Lake, as the lake grows older, invasive vegetation and lower water quality lessen its recreational value and use as a natural resource. Friends of Deep Creek Lake believes that federal funding, state assistance and a more active role for Garrett County are necessary to combat this natural degradation.

According to Barbara Beeler, member of the Friends of Deep Creek Lake board, the degradation of the lake will result in economic consequences in impacted areas. The detrimental effects of aging could lead to decreased property and housing values and lower tax revenues for Garrett County. “All of us — county, users, beneficiaries — we’re all going to be impacted by the continuing decline of the lake,” said Beeler.

Friends of Deep Creek Lake’s proposal features three main components. The first is the creation of a Deep Creek Lake Restoration Action Plan. “We need to make a lake policy from the bottom up,” said Beeler. Friends of Deep Creek Lake suggests that the plan include a variety of restoration and maintenance programs for such tasks as fighting the existing impacts of lake aging, eliminating algae blooms, reducing sediment and nutrient runoff, and upgrading septic systems.

The second is a means of funding the restoration. One of the primary obstacles to a restoration project would be the lack of available funds due to the current economic climate. According to Friends of Deep Creek Lake, funding for the Department of Natural Resources’ Lake Management Division comes only from dock permit fees, and the majority of this money is spent paying operating fees and taxes. Friends of Deep Creek Lake believes that federal money is necessary for the project.

“Until the economic crisis goes away, we’re really stifled,” said Commission Chairman Denny Glotfelty. “It’s impossible to get the state to move right now.”

Finally, the proposal includes a call for leadership for the restoration effort. The proposal suggests the formation of a working group that would lay groundwork for the plan, raise funds, and lobby for Deep Creek Lake in state and federal venues.

Along with the lack of available funding, another obstacle to the proposal is the fact that the lake is owned by the state rather than Garrett County. This makes it difficult for Garrett County to create an action plan regarding the lake as Friends of Deep Creek Lake’s proposal intends.

“It’s Maryland’s water. Whether it’s private or state property, it’s their water. That’s the problem,” said Glotfelty, who added that action regarding the lake is necessary. “We’ve got an 85-year-old lady that we’re trying to give a face-lift to right now.”

The commission did not act on the proposal during Tuesday’s meeting. It will be discussed further at the next meeting of the Deep Creek Lake Policy and Review Board, beginning at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the Deep Creek Lake Discovery Center.

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Route 219 bypass would relieve traffic congestion

Interesting letter to the editor:

Route 219 bypass would relieve traffic congestion

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

The U.S. Route 219 Bypass around Oakland should’ve been done yesterday! Traffic congestion is terrible!

New businesses are being built, and deliveries have to made, and it’s bad enough for delivery trucks to get through, besides other trucks that have a scheduled delivery to make, but none in Oakland. A few examples include trucks trying to deliver mobile homes, heavy equipment, and roof rafters. With new businesses, perhaps the older ones in town will lower their prices for the full-time residents of the area to afford. Too much is focused on the customers that are visiting at Deep Creek Lake.

Not only is it hard for people to drive through Oakland, but it’s hard for pedestrians to get across the street, and with the bypass, response times for the local fire department will probably be cut. The fire department is in the middle of town. From the map of the proposed bypass, the only real farm that will be lost is not even farmed anymore. In fact, the land that hay and other crops come off of is for sale. If the bypass doesn’t use it, perhaps another business will?

The group that is against the bypass should be called “People Against The Proposed Bypass.” That’s all they focus their attention on. They say nothing about trees around the lake being destroyed to build condominiums, and so on. I wonder if any of them utilize Interstate 68, or do they drive through Friendsville, Grantsville, Frostburg, and so on, if they don’t travel U.S. Route 220 to Cumberland ?

Bill Detrick


If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Mortgage Loan Officer Jerry Merrick – BBT Mortgage

One of Deep Creek Lake’s finest lenders:

Mortgage Loan Officer
Jerry Merrick
Deep Creek Lake
21287 Garrett Hwy., Suite 500
Oakland, MD 21550

Office: 301-387-3219 Mobile: 301-616-0037
Fax: 301-387-5393


-The vision at BB&T Mortgage is to be the Best Home Lender, guided by Integrity, Fairness, and a Caring Enthusiasm
-Specializing in World Standard Client Service
-Enabling our clients to achieve economic success and financial security through homeownership

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350

Common Questions about Conservation Easements

From the Maryland DNR website:

How does it work?

Commonly Asked Questions about Conservation Easements
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a tool for landowners to protect natural resources and preserve scenic open space. The landowner who gives an easement limits the right to develop and subdivide the land, now and in the future, but still remains the owner. The organization accepting the easement agrees to monitor it forever to ensure compliance with its terms. No public access is required by a conservation easement.

Why put a conservation easement on your land?
Landowners who want to protect a beloved farm and/or their family’s heritage donate conservation easements as a way to prevent their land from becoming developed. There are also tax advantages associated with the donation of an easement.

What kinds of land can be protected by a conservation easement?
Any land whose conservation is in the public interest – woodland, wetlands, farmland, scenic areas, historic areas, wild and scenic rivers, undisturbed natural areas.

Does the Maryland Environmental Trust accept all easement offers?
Easement offers are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Trust staff members are available to visit potential easement sites and meet with interested landowners. The final decision rests with the Board of Trustees. If a property does not meet the Trust’s guidelines, they will recommend another land trust who may hold the conservation easement.

How long does the easement last?
Trust easements are perpetual, and apply to all present and future owners of the land.

What are advantages of donating an easement?
For people who want to preserve their land, an easement will assure that the land will never be used in a way contrary to their intent. Financial benefits in the form of tax deductions are also associated with easements. Easements often make it much easier to pass the land to the owner’s children without paying large estate taxes.

What are disadvantages of donating an easement?
Because an easement restricts development of a property, the market value of the land may be reduced.

Will an easement grant the public access to my property?
No. Public benefits of an easements are only derived from scenic views of the land from public roads or waterways.

Who owns land that is under an easement? Can it be sold?
The landowner who donated the easement remains the owner of the land. The land can be bought and sold. However, the easement “runs with the land” and applies to all future landowners.

Can property owners still live on and use the land if they donate an easement?
Yes. Easements typically allow for changes and additions to houses, construction of farm buildings, and other normal agricultural practices.

Easements may be drafted in various ways. For example, some landowners decide that, for the protection of the land, all development rights should be excluded, so that the land will always look substantially as it does now. Another might wish to allow the option of adding a limited number of future dwellings.

How much is the gift of an easement worth?
The value of an easement gift varies with each easement. Generally, the more the easement restricts the uses of the property, the higher the value of the gift, and hence the higher the tax deduction.

To determine the easement value, the land must be appraised at both its fair market value without the easement restrictions, and its fair market value with the easement restrictions. The difference between these two appraisals is the easement value, from which the tax deductions are derived.

The Trust does not do appraisals, but maintains lists of known appraisers.

How do future owners of a property know that an easement exists?
The easement is recorded in the Land Records of the county government. Any title search (generally done when land changes hands) will therefore reveal the existence of the easement.

Even if future property owners are unaware of the existence of the easement, they remain legally bound by it. The Trust monitors easement properties regularly to make sure of compliance.

One of the Maryland Environmental Trust’s largest responsibilities is to make sure the terms of a conservation easement are followed by future owners of the easement property. The key to this long-term stewardship is monitoring. MET monitors the easements it holds by inspecting properties on a regular basis. Landowners always receive advance notice of a visit and interiors of buildings are not monitored. If we discover the terms of an easement are not being followed, MET will attempt to work with the landowner to correct the problem. If the problem is still not corrected, MET has the right to enforce the easement through the legal system. When an easement is held jointly with a local land trust, that organization shares the monitoring and enforcement duties with MET.

Can Conservation Easements be donated by will?
Yes. The landowner should contact the Trust in advance, however, to ensure that the Trust will accept the gift. It is often better to donate an easement during one’s lifetime, since otherwise one loses the income-tax benefits of the donation.

Is land, which is subject to an easement, immune from condemnation?
A Maryland Environmental Trust easement will protect from condemnation by a municipal or county government. Legal research indicates that it will also protect from condemnation by the State, barring an express act of the Legislature. The Federal Government, however, can condemn a Trust easement.

Is there a yearly deadline for donating an easement to the Trust?
No. The Trust accepts requests at all times. However, if you wish to donate an easement during a particular calendar year, please contact the Trust no later than September of that year.

For more info, visit http://www.dnr.maryland.gov/met/ce.html

If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, call Jay Ferguson of Long & Foster Real Estate for all of your real estate needs! 877-563-5350