Board of Civil Authority Meeting Minutes: August 29, 2017

Present: Priscilla Cotton, Gary Delius, Carol Hesselbach, Bob Crego.  Evan Chadwick, Esq. and Christine Druke, representing Joel Schneider. John Morrison representing Mark and Theresa O’Connor.  Doris Knechtle and Frank Suponski, representing the listers with their expert witness Bill Kajeski from the appraisal company, New England Municipal Consultants.

Priscilla Cotton, chair, called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.  She then administered the oath to the Appellants, Listers, and witnesses. Discussion of oath to Attorney but he declined as he believed he does not “testify as to facts under oath” but presents an account.

Each member of the BCA present was introduced by Priscilla.

O’Connor Appeal.  40 Upper River Road

Bill Kajeski described the property assessed at $348,500 and the conditions considered by the appraisal.  Built in 1985, above average construction with a bow type roof.  Post and beam interior.  There is a second structure which is a 24x 36 garage with a 1 bedroom apartment over it and is heated.  Good grade property. The property is on the West River.

John Morrison introduced himself as a local real estate broker with 54 years of experience in the area.  He disagrees with the quality.  He saw the property being built and thinks it was very poorly built.  Said it needs a new roof and to be painted.  There is no central heat only gas wall heaters.  It is a 2 bedroom house which does not demand the prices the Assessors believe it does.  He gave 2 comparables:  98 Railroad Lane which is newer being built in 2008. This property has 2 acres on the river and sold for $325,000.  Double in size, nicer house.  The second is 6 River Road which has frontage on Smith Brook and sold for $325,700. House has 2900 sq ft.  Almost double size.

John Morrison continued that the grievance reduced the value.

He stated that the Owners had not provided him with additional information because their son was recently killed in an accident.  In his opinion, the property is worth less than $300,000 based on his years as a realtor in the area.  Noted that the majority of the land is in the flood plain.  A parcel of just land up near the River Bend the river recently sold for $40,000.  This was a 4.6 acre parcel.

Gary asked how is the house heated.

John:  Gas wall unit.  You can just drive by and see roof needs to be replaced.  I know builder, it was very poorly built.  Water problem in basement.

Gary:  Appraise saw the property as Residential Good.  How would you appraise it?

John:  Not good, maybe average.

Bill Kajeski then presented the Listers’ rebuttal.  He disagreed with John Morrison’s characterization of the quality.  He said that the card may be wrong about the heat source.  That would need to be checked.  The comparables used by the Listers are 6 River road which is on the water, 15 West Street, and 98 Railroad which is also on the water but has 6 acres.  It is a two point six acre lot with substantial frontage on river.   Quality location, land valuable.  They also considered 18 Old Stage Road which is relatively similar.  The property on appeal is a very nice property. It has a garage unit which he believes puts it over $300,000.  It’s in a nice, quiet location, nice separation from neighbors. Typically values have held very well along river.  People like being on the river.  The flood plain is not considered to affect value.  He stated that the value was reduced from $369,300 to $348,500 after the informal hearing.  The Listers denied the grievance.  Agreed that there is an issue regarding the heating in both buildings that needs to be looked at.

Gary:  Card shows outbuilding has forced hot water heat.

Bill:  That is inconsistent.

Gary:  In your opinion what is property worth?

Listers brought in map of flood plain.  House is not in flood plain, only a portion of the property is.

John:  According to insurance, because basement is in flood plain, they consider house in flood plain.

Gary asked if the building had a basement.

Bill replied, yes, a full height, walk down basement.  There is a sump pump there.

Gary asked if the garage apartment was rented?  John Morrison replied no, it is used for guests.

Frank asked Bill about it being a bowed roof house.  How many had he seen?

Bill relied that there is only one other in Town. Unusual construction.

Frank said, that is difficult to do.

Gary:  asked Bill what did he rate the grade of the roof?

Bill said that the need for a new roof is normal maintenance.  There is no evidence of leaking therefore it does not affect the appraisal.  They only adjust the appraisal for roof condition if the roof problem is severe.  He believes the appraised value is a median, responsible value. Definitely a worn roof.

Priscilla asked if someone could show her where the heat is on the card?

Bill said it would need to be checked in the notes to see if just the wrong box was checked.

John said it is forced hot air, Rinai type heaters.

Bill said that if that is the case there would be a difference in the valuation.

Priscilla asked John if there was any evidence to log in?  He said no.

John Morrison said he has access to the house so he can let the team in.

Priscilla asked for volunteers to go on the site visit and Bob Crego, Gary Delius and Carol Hesselbach volunteered. Bob needs the inspection to take place after 5 PM.  After discussion it was agreed to do the inspection on Friday, September 1 at 5 PM.

John Morrison was thanked for coming in.

Gary said to John Morrison, understand we can’t take any testimony as we go through the property.

Joel Schneider Appeal.   37 Deer Hill Road

We asked for representatives to be introduced.  Christine Druke and Attorney Chadwick

Bill made his presentation for the listers.  The property is a substantial 70 acre parcel, valued at $945,900.  Antique colonial from about 1840 with a large addition built in 2002.  It blends that old versus new that the market is attracted to.   It has a newer kitchen, sizable master suite.  The site has a pastoral look.  Long driveway up to it. There are additional buildings including a barn with an apartment.  There is a tennis court, stone work patios and wall.  A secondary barn type building and a 3 car garage.  There is a swimming pool.  There are 10-15 acres of open field, then blends into woods.  Very very nice setting.  House itself is the issue. Blend of old and new that the market reacts positively to.  The grievance was denied.  There was no informal hearing.

Priscilla invited Evan Chadwick to present his argument.  Essentially what I understand to be our burden.  Burden of submission will be met by appraisal from Todd Brown.  He provided Exhibit 1, an appraisal by Todd Brown.  Reasonable and modest appraiser.  Todd Brown assessed the property as worth $715,000.

Attorney Chadwick stated that in 2007, at the top of the market, the property was

assessed at $654,000.  Now while real estate market is recovering somewhat in this area, the value is almost 50% more without any real substantial change.  How can we justify such a rise with no substantial change.  It is my understanding that when we meet the burden of production it becomes the Town’s burden to provide proof of how they determined the value.   He believes that Appellant met the requirement of production and wants the Listers to provide proof for the value they have given the property.  Looking at comparable sales, not a lot in the area. They believe that the value of $715,000 is a more reasonable figure for what the property would fetch in the market.  What are people going to be willing to pay.  State needs to present evidence to show value was treated the same.   Mr. Schneider believes that the property was looked at differently than other properties.

Mr. Chadwick provided Exhibit 2 which contains the minutes of the grievance appeals to the Listers in 2015.   He drew attention to the first item where the Listers lowered the house grade from A+ to B and made other changes to the Listers’ card which reduced the assessment from $1,318,000 to $973,600. This property is significantly smaller in size, of house, acres, additional amenities. He said that the main structure was old .  There are big discrepancies.

Bill made the Listers’ rebuttal. First said that without the Appraiser here he cannot comment on the report. Carol said he cannot argue that. He asked to review Exhibit 1, then stated that he could not comment on it without the opportunity to ask the appraiser about his methodology.   When we start lopping off large amounts of money off a sales price.  When I have plus, minus here that I don’t know what he was doing.

Bill said that when they do an appraisal they start from zero.  They do not assume the 2007 card was correct, they do not apply any kind of multiplier to the 2007 values to get current values.  He found the Brown appraisal problematic because he was adding amounts and deducting amounts with no explanation.  One property that both the Listers and Todd Brown used as a comparable, the Listers raised the value to get their comparable, while Todd Brown reduced the value to get his comparable.

Bill stated that this is one of a handful of similar properties in Town, high value properties.  Buyers are looking for some things, not particularly town. In that situation they look for comparables regionally.  They looked outside the community for comparables.

Comparable #1 is smaller, in a nice location, sold in July 2017 for $785,000.  #2 is in Dummerston, sold in April 2015, a similar size lot but steep with a reproduction style house, built maybe in 75/80 but of lesser quality.  Acreage close but setting different.  #3 is in Dover and he struggled to use it.  It sold for $602,000.  It was a 2015 reproduction, on a small lot, with no secondary unit.  #4 is on Chapin Road in Newfane.  It is on the market for $1,350,000.00.  It is a very similar home built in 1822 with a modern addition.  There is a secondary apartment.  It is private, with a very similar look.  Long driveway.  Find it hard to believe they would list it for $1,350,000 but only sell for $715,000.  They are using it as a comp because it has the amenities people are looking for.  All the comps are adjusted for size, acreage, and quality.

He stated that they looked to see if they were equitably treating homes by assessing similar homes in a similar manner.  They looked at homes over 25 acres, plus grade (B or better).  There was a $1.1 million average assessment for these homes.  There are 9 properties, values run from 885,000 to well over $1 million.  When we compared those properties, we felt they are treating people fairly.  Never look at old values, start at ground zero and move forward.

Evan Chadwick said that they did ask for a continuance since their appraiser could not be there but it was denied and they were told they could submit Todd Brown’s report.  He believes that put them at a slight disadvantage to be able to have Mr Brown to fill in the gaps.  It is stated by third part .  Mr Brown certainly is a third party.

He also said that the comparable from the Listers that is a listing, not a past sale, does not count.  He believes that the several comparables laid out by Todd Brown are more characteristic of the value. We hired a very proficient expert to give a value and

Gary asked, what does Mr. Schneider feel is the value?

Evan replied that Joel Schneider is confused by the jump when it is so much higher than others in same property position.   No certainly there is some variance in how listers do their job.  Own evidence shows should be a modest increase. He thinks it should be at or around the 2007 assessed value.

Carol asked why should we accept the 2007 card as being more correct than the 2017 card?

Evan replied because of Expert report.

Gary said that the assessment that was done was a snapshot in time.  The conditions of market change.  Listers considered sales from 2014-2017.  Saying only worth what it was in 2007 cannot be supported.

Gary asked do the two outbuildings both have apartments?

Bill replied no.

Gary: Are they both year round buildings.

Bill: Apartment is one bedroom.

Frank said that there was no apartment over the garage on the 2007 card.    Bill explained that there has been some discussion that there was no apartment over garage on the 2007 card which would be one reason there is a difference in value.

Evan replied that the apartment was there in 2007.  Bill stated that it was not reflected in the assessment at that time.

There were questions re the size and the basement.  Bill answered that there was a little bit of finish in the basement but not much.  Altogether 1800 sq ft first floor, 1500 sq ft second between old and new sections..

Priscilla asked, do we have any A grade houses in Town?  Discussion followed.

Gary asked, what value are the Listers putting on the apartment outbuilding?  $189,000?

Bill: $189,600, yes.  It has a garage, apartment, and a basement.

Gary:  A Pennsylvania barn.

Bill:  Yes. Best way to describe it.

Priscilla asked if there were any other questions.  No questions.

Priscilla asked how the inspection can be arranged.

Evan replied that there is a caretaker and he can arrange for the caretaker to be there.

Priscilla asked for volunteers for the inspection team.  Carol, Priscilla and Bob make up the team.  After discussion, the inspection was set for Tuesday, Sept 5 at 5 PM.  Bob will advise if he is unable to do that.

Evan asked were members of the Board not here.  Answer was yes.   He asked did we have a quorum.  Told him a quorum is 3.  And 3 will be on the inspection team.

Gary made a motion that the meeting of the BCA be recessed to a time uncertain, Unanimous agreement.

Respectfully submitted by,

Carol Hesselbach

Recording Clerk of the BCA