For six years, Ben Porto & Son, Ltd. and Tri-State Stone & Building Supply Inc., the last surviving local dimension stone quarry in Montgomery County, has been battling the County to receive credits on the Water Quality Protection Charge (“WQPC”), otherwise known as the “rain tax,” for treatment of their own stormwater. On August 24, 2021, the Maryland Tax Court overturned the County’s credit denials and granted the taxpayer 100% credit against the WQPC it had paid for 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Porto has served Montgomery County, The National Park Service, The District of Columbia, and residents and property owners in the Washington metropolitan area for nearly a century. This Montgomery County business mines a rare stone, which is the area’s only indigenous quartzite stone. The County designated Porto’s quarry and property a Critical Area in recognition of its uniqueness and importance to the County. Porto’s unique Carderock stone is matched in only three or four other places in the world. Porto’s quarry recently has provided historic matches at The White House, Arlington National Cemetery and Clara Barton Parkway. Arlington National Cemetery, Walter Reed, the National Institute of Health, Nationals Stadium, The National Zoo and Georgetown University have used Porto’s material for new construction or historic matches, as has Wheaton’s Brookside Gardens, Potomac’s Glenstone Museum, and numerous County private schools, businesses and residences*.
This County-designated Critical Area has incurred a 10,590.14% increase in its WQPC from 2012 to 2019. The rapidly rising County-imposed fees and taxes are an increasing hardship for this family-run business and threaten its viability.
Porto has had County and State-approved stormwater management facilities on its property long before the WQPC was instituted. Porto assisted the County by increasing the height of Porto’s large stormwater management berm, at its own expense, when the County realigned Seven Locks Road in the early 1980s. Porto’s original (and later raised) berm has protected County land since 1972. The berm helped prevent flooding and erosion from Cabin John Creek, and significant erosion of the County land adjacent to Seven Locks Road.
The Maryland Tax Court ruled that Porto demonstrated both onsite treatment of all of its stormwater and additional treatment of offsite stormwater and that it is therefore entitled to credit pursuant to the Montgomery County Code.
Jon D. Pels, Maria Leonard Olsen and Erin Webb of The Pels Law Firm represented Porto in this litigation. The case is Ben Porto & Son, Ltd., et al. v. Montgomery County, Maryland, Tax Court Case No. 18-MI-00-0911 (1-3).
* Other notable projects that have used natural stone mined from Porto’s property include: Howard Hughes Medical Center, Rock Creek Park, Bolling Air Force Base, The Pentagon, the grounds of The National Cathedral, The Norwood School, Washington Episcopal School, The National Cathedral School, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, the reconstruction of the Canal Road wall by Chain Bridge, The Baltimore Washington Parkway, The South West Waterfront Redevelopment, the DC Clean Rivers Project, and the Anacostia River Projects overflow and diversion structures.