Frederick to alter rules on tax status

Posted: February 19, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Some nonprofit organizations that own property in Frederick County will be required, starting later this year, to reapply for tax-exempt status every three years.

The county’s Board of Supervisors on Feb. 12 voted 7-0 to approve an ordinance in the section of the Frederick County Code that deals with tax exemption for nonprofit organizations.

The ordinance requires certain nonprofits — excluding governments, schools and churches, among others — to apply to the county government triennially, starting on Nov. 15, to retain their tax exemptions.

A request for tax exemption from The Village at Orchard Ridge — a retirement and assisted-living community that opened off Northwestern Pike (U.S. 50) last year — contributed to the supervisors’ wish to review tax-exempt nonprofit properties, according to County Administrator John R. Riley Jr.

“The board wants to review the status of all nonprofits that are currently benefiting from tax exemption and they need to enact a local ordinance to articulate that and [to] make it specific as to when they will review it and under what time periods,” he said after the board meeting.

Orchard Ridge — owned by Rockville, Md.-based National Lutheran Communities & Services — applied for a tax exemption in early 2013.

The Board of Supervisors on April 24 voted to deny the request and expressed an interest in reviewing entities that had previously received tax exemption.

Representatives of Orchard Ridge said at the time that the denial of a tax exemption for their organization put them at a disadvantage to Shenandoah Valley Westminster Canterbury, a competing organization and tax-exempt property in Winchester and Frederick County.

County Commissioner of the Revenue Ellen Murphy said on Tuesday that about 20 nonprofit organizations with property in the county must submit an application to her office to keep the exempt status.

“We’re going to try to keep this as simple for the people as possible,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a pretty straightforward process.”

Murphy added that she carefully reviews applications for tax exemption before sending them to the county’s Finance Committee and Board of Supervisors.

Winchester officials have required triennial reviews for nonprofit organizations’ properties since 2008, according to Commissioner of the Revenue Ann Burkholder.

The city government — which unlike the county government does look at the tax exemption for church properties — reviews slightly more than 200 properties triennially, Burkholder said on Tuesday.

Donna Peake, Clarke County’s commissioner of the revenue, said on Tuesday that the locality does not conduct triennial reviews of nonprofit organizations’ properties.

Several Northern Virginia localities — including Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties as well as Alexandria — have not granted tax exemptions for nonprofits in recent years, according to The Washington Post.

— Contact Matt Armstrong atmarmstrong@winchesterstar.com