Backlash to Vision Appraisal Technology’s 2008 real estate revaluation in West Tisbury continued this week, drawing sympathetic comments from public officials, including selectmen.
The drumbeat of criticism, largely provided by resident Joan Ames in recent weeks, drew comments from town finance committee chairman Richard Knabel and a promise by selectman chairman Glenn Hearn to reach out to town assessors to discuss the process.
Ms. Ames has said the revaluation should be disallowed because she said language covering the contract and requests for proposals between the town and the appraisal firm does not provide for competitive bidding.
Mr. Knabel, however, took a different tack.
Alluding to Tisbury Great Pond and Seven Gates Farm residents’ tax bills that have doubled and tripled in a single year while the remainder of the town faces minimal increases, Mr. Knabel said, “A system that produces those kinds of results is fundamentally flawed. That means the town has a fundamental problem. [The process] has alerted us that it can happen again, not just to the two per cent affected this year.”
Addressing the selectmen, Mr. Knabel said “people are looking for some comfort in this [situation],” a theme echoed by several other residents at the meeting.
Resident Cynthia Riggs said: “You are the CEOs of this town. We expect leadership on this issue that gets passed back and forth between the state, Vision and our assessors.”
Mr. Hearn and selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter acknowledged they understand the situation personally since both own properties with significantly higher valuations in 2008, but expressed discomfort at interfering with other elected officials’ work.
Mr. Manter suggested residents wait for the result of abatements. Abatement hearings began this week and two hearing days per week may be established in order to get through the 107 abatement petitions as quickly as possible, chief assessor Kristina West said this week.
In agreeing to discuss the issue with assessors, Mr. Hearn noted that Chappaquiddick’s successful 2007 Vision revaluation challenge was based on citizens’ prior knowledge of the revaluation results. Residents hired legal and appraisal help and forced a revaluation.
“The [West Tisbury] public meeting with Vision was not well publicized,” Mr. Hearn said. “So advance knowledge didn’t happen here. They had to know the results but did not disclose them.”
Regarding a possible meeting between the selectmen and the board of assessors, Mr. Hearn said, “I can’t deny saying that or that I would like that to happen but we have not met as a board to discuss a meeting nor have we contacted the assessors about it at this point.”
In other action, the board heard without formal action a plea by Old County Road resident Ebba Hierta that the town develop a detailed map displaying impact of a planned pedestrian way before town meeting. Ms. Hierta expressed concern that aesthetics and safety issues would impact “one the few remaining historic roads in town.”