The West Tisbury assessors have made public their first round of real estate abatements, applying reductions in valuations from 10 to 60 per cent on seven of 57 properties in the Tisbury Great Pond and Seven Gates Farm neighborhoods, the areas in town hit hardest by revaluations.
Abatement applications are taxpayer requests for lower valuations, thus lower tax bills. They challenge real estate values assigned after revaluation occurs.
This year 107 abatements were filed, slightly higher than the last general revaluation in 2004 and about double a non-general revaluation year.
The board also announced it will advocate with the state for acceptance of a high-profile abatement despite state Department of Revenue regulations.
An application by Maurice and Mary Jane Pease was filed by the Feb. 1 deadline but was not received by the assessor’s office until after deadline.
Residents have pilloried the assessors for failing to advocate for acceptance of the Pease abatement. The assessors have replied the state rules tied their hands.
Michael Colaneri, chairman of the assessors, disclosed for the first time this week that the assessors had sought clarification more than a month ago from the state. On Tuesday, he read a second stronger letter written that day directly asking the state to accept the application.
The actions seemed to reduce a building level of acrimony around the West Tisbury revaluation. The assessors have been virtually silent during two months of criticism from taxpayers angry about revaluations that have doubled and tripled their real estate values for tax purposes. Vision Appraisal Technology, a company hired to do the revaluation, has also been the target of taxpayer ire.
The mood was lighter at Tuesday’s regular assessors meeting in sharp contrast with its meeting a week ago, when the presence of a West Tisbury police officer requested by Mr. Colaneri drew howls of protest and letter-writing. This week, Fiona, assessor Cynthia Mitchell’s agreeable Irish Jack Russell terrier, was the lone interloper.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Colaneri also read a letter from selectman Glenn Hearn asking for clarification of the impact of the $18 million Drexler property sale on assessments of properties at Tisbury Great Pond and Seven Gates Farm.
Mr. Hearn also asked whether the assessors would recompute the revaluation without including the sale of property by Mickey Drexler to billionaire Wesley Edens in October 2006.
Mr. Colaneri said assessors had done the work and said the $18 million sale “had a role” in the abatement process but would not provide additional details. He said the Drexler sale was included in the reassessment.
Despite hectoring by some residents during the assessors’ meeting, Mr. Colaneri took the high road.
“Let the process play out. Let’s see where we end up [as a result of abatement applications],” he counseled.
He added: “The system we use is what we have. It may be flawed, A lot of people think it is.”
He urged taxpayers to contact their state legislators to demand legislative changes they want in valuation law.
The board detailed the abatements granted three Great Pond and Seven Gates Farm property owners. Homeowners in those two neighborhoods are the nucleus of a group called the West Tisbury Taxpayers Association, which is challenging the validity of the revaluation process and assessor behavior.
Anthony Lewis was granted an overall 18.6 per cent abatement worth $1.634 million on five properties on or close to the Tisbury Great Pond. By property type, the abatements ranged from 135 per cent reductions on two unimproved lots and valuation reductions ranging from nine per cent to 30 per cent on three improved lots with structures. The two lot valuations dropped from $285,000 to $120,000 each. Three improved lots with structures declined from $1.985 million to $1.840 million, $2.67 million to $1.86 million and $3.461 million to $3.23 million.
Marion Fremont-Smith was granted a 21 per cent reduction in valuation on house and land initially valued at $3.461 million, now valued at $2.741 million. Lydia Katzenbach’s home value dropped 29 per cent from $7.413 million to $5.261 million.
Asked whether the granting of the seven abatements represented a trend, Mr. Colaneri noted the properties were the first on the list to be abated. He would not predict how the abatements would affect neighboring properties also seeking abatements.
In other action, assessor Cynthia Mitchell disputed the accuracy of several points included in an opinion piece critical of the revaluation system and the assessors. The piece was written by West Tisbury resident Joan Ames and published last week in the Gazette.
In her public comments, Ms. Mitchell said no property valuations were quadrupled over prior year. In fact, she said, 90 per cent of homes received less than a 10 percent increase, six percent of home values increased between 10 and 49 per cent and that 52 properties increased 50 to 100 per cent and that 57 properties noted above were revalued at more than 100 per cent. She said also that Chilmark has designated 18 revaluation neighborhoods rather than three cited by Ms. Ames.