Newfane Board of Civil Authority Tax Appeal Hearing Minutes – August 10, 2015

Members Present: Priscilla Cotton, Richard Marek, Greg Record, Ellen Darrow, Gloria Cristelli, Michael Fitzpatrick, Sandra Dowley, Todd Lawley, Marion Dowling, Carol Hatcher, and Dennis Wiswall

Members Absent: Mary Ann Clarkson and Robert Crego

Listers: Doris Knechtel and Frank Suponski       Absent: Lynn Forrest

Priscilla Cotton, Chair, called the organizational meeting to order at 5:30 p.m.

The Chair brought to the Board’s attention a difference in the procedures between the Secretary of State’s A Handbook on Property Tax Assessment Appeals and the Vermont League of Cities and Town’s Model Tax Appeals Procedures. A copy of the latter was sent to each appellant and each BCA member. The possibility of requesting additional information from the listers and/or appellants was discussed as well as having the listers present all of their testimony and evidence prior to the appellant presenting his or her testimony and evidence. VLCT’s guidelines suggest only a brief introduction by the listers, followed by the appellant and then the listers presenting their testimony and evidence. Gloria Cristelli moved to continue to use the Secretary of State’s procedures. Ellen Darrow seconded the motion. The motion pass unanimously.

Gloria Cristelli shared the results of the inquiry made to both the Secretary of State’s Office and VLCT about the changes made in both the agenda and notice of hearing. The property owner whose name of the road was incorrect is not scheduled until August 20th. Both the property owner, their lawyer, and the BCA members received a copy of the change in sufficient time to meet the posting date for the hearing. The revised notice was also posted in four different places and was changed on the website. As for the agenda, adding Dimas Newfane LLC to August 10th rather than August 20th, VLCT and the Secretary of State’s Office said that the agenda had to be posted at least 48 hours in advance and changes made at the beginning of meeting.

The Chair administered the oath to the BCA members for them to sit for tax appeals. Board members signed a sheet to which Gloria Cristelli will type in the oath.

It was decided that Mike Fitzpatrick can be impartial in the tax appeals to be presented tonight, and he will recuse himself for Rebecca Jarvis’s hearing on August 20, 2015.

Discussion ensued about the time for meeting to hear the reports of the site visit teams and to render decisions. It was decided that we would meet on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at 6 p.m. Meeting to be warned.

At 6 p.m. Priscilla Cotton called the hearing to order. She welcomed the appellants and listers. The Chair administered the listers and appellants oath, and then gave a brief description of the procedure for the hearing: listers introduce the property and present their case, the appellants present their case and basis for appeal, followed by the listers rebuttal of appellant, and BCA members to ask questions of either listers or appellant. The BCA will collect written evidence, and the Chair will appoint inspection committee of at least three (3) members to view the site.

First Appellant: Charles Chandler Parcel ID# 00B182.1, 1075 VT Route 30

Greg Record and Todd Lawley recused themselves from Mr. Chandler’s hearing.

Doris Knechtel, representing the listers, presented the Listers’ testimony.

The Listers provided three exhibits as follows:

Exhibit 1:        Assessment card for 00B182.1

Exhibit 2:       Comparable property spread sheet with corresponding assessment cards

Exhibit 3:        Business Use of Outbuildings Report from the State of Vermont

The property consists of 2.11 acres with a mobile home and two warehouses. The mobile home was built about 1980 having a grade C (Average) with an aluminum exterior and gable roof with a total of two bedrooms,one kitchen and 1 bathroom, an enclosed porch and an open porch in the rear plus a 720-square foot shed. The lower warehouse built about 2004 is two stories with a grade of C- (Average minus) with an aluminum exterior and metal roof without bedrooms, kitchen or bathroom, no water or sewer. The upper warehouse built about 2005 is a single story with a half basement with a grade of C- (Average minus), having an aluminum exterior and asphalt shingle roof and is without bedrooms, kitchen or bathroom, and no water or sewer.

In June of 2015, Mr. Chandler grieved the assessment of his property. As a result the Listers conducted a site visit on June 18, 2015. This visit resulted in changes of the grade of the upper warehouse from C (Average) to C- (Average minus). The square footage of the basement was reduced from 720 square feet to 360 square feet. These changes resulted in an overall decrease in the assessment of $3,200 or 1.73%. Total 2015 valuation of property after grievance was $181,500.

Ms. Knechtel pointed out that the current CLA is 102.45%.

Charles Chandler, appellant, represented himself and presented the BCA with three exhibits.

Exhibit 1:        Comparables for Property, called Phoenix Buildings, from Christine Lewis, Brattleboro Area Realty

Exhibit 2.       Result of Grievance Day Appeal Notice sent by the Newfane Listers

Exhibit 3:        Photocopies of pictures taken of property after Tropical Storm Irene, referred to by appellant as “the flood.”

In Christine Lewis’s cover letter, she indicated that “there are no true comparables as you have a unique property.” Her listed real value is $161,400. Mr. Chandler indicated that there was no reduction in assessment after grievance, but an increase of $27,000. He stated that he did not live in the mobile home and indicated that it is not habitable and is worthless ever since the flood. His perimeter drains are plugged, and the flood took away all of the topsoil. It is going to cost a lot of money to repair the property, and he indicated that there is no place in the records that indicated a decrease in the value of the property. The packet of pictures show the flooded area and remaining rocks. Mr. Chandler also stated that the roofing is shingles and because of the flood, the roof leaks. Ms. Knechtel pointed out that even though the roof is indicated on the lister card that no monetary value was given to it, so Mr. Chandler is taxed a zero dollars for the shingle roof.

The Listers in their rebuttal indicated that Mr. Chandler had not grieved in 2014, nor did he request any relief after Tropical Storm Irene until he grieved this year. Mr. Chandler, when asked when all three listers visited his property if he lived in the mobile home, and he said yes. The lister card for this property indicated that there was a kitchen and bathroom in the largest building, but the listers found none, and they removed that information from the card. Exhibit 3 from the listers shows that when Mr. Chandler filed with the State, the two warehouses were listed as used for business. Their information comes from the Department of Taxes. Frank Suponski pointed out that when he went in the basement of the largest building there was about a half inch of water.

Marion Dowling stated that she is a licensed real estate broker in New York, and that comparables needed to be from the same neighborhood and wondered why there were no comparables in Newfane.

Mr. Chandler indicated that he had given the same letters that he gave to the Listers to the Town Clerk so they should be on record as information before the appeal.  Gloria Cristelli, BCA member, stepped out of her BCA role to speak as Town Clerk. She indicated that yes, Mr. Chandler had given the Town Clerk letters, but he did not indicate that they should go in the Land Records, nor did he pay to have those recorded. She pointed out that if Mr. Chandler had wanted those letters presented to the Board of Civil Authority that he needed to have made copies to present at this hearing.

Ms. Knechtel told the BCA that the listers have a handout that, in general terms, shows how the listers arrive at the valuation of the property. These handouts can be helpful to those doing site visits.

Mike Fitzpatrick, Dennis Wiswall and Sandra Dowley volunteered to be the site visit team and will visit the property on Wednesday, August 12th time to be determined among them and Mr. Chandler.

Richard Marek emphasized that no one can provide additional testimony or submit more evidence. No ex parte communication can take place among the listers, the appellant, and the BCA members.

Mr. Chandler asked when a trailer ceases to be residential and again indicated that there was no mention of anything about his living in larger building. After the grievance, Mr. Chandler called and discussed his living in the larger building with Lynn Forrest who said that she would talk to the other two listers. This was evidence after the grievance.

At 6:45 the Chair stopped discussion and indicated that other appellants were waiting for their hearings, and that the BCA had to move along.

Second Appellant: Williamsville Guest House, LLC (owned by Jonathan Julian) Parcel ID# 00F084 & 00E089, 31 & 32 Dover Road

Richard Marek, Ellen Darrow, Greg Record recused themselves from this hearing.

Doris Knechtel, representing the Listers provided the introduction to the parcels and the Listers’ determination of property value.

The Listers provided three exhibits as follows:

Exhibit 1:        Assessment card for cards for 00D089 & 00F084

Exhibit 2:       Comparable property spread sheet with corresponding assessment cards

The property consists of 1.6 acres with an old style building (card 1), built about 1863, having a grade of B+ (Good plus), having a clapboard exterior and slate roof with a total of four (4) bedrooms, two (2) kitchens and four (4) bathroom, plus a 39’ x 51’ barn, 12’ x 13’ lean-to and 26’ x 13’ shed. The second building, a former church (card 2) is old style built about 1881, having a grade B (Good), with a clapboard exterior and slate roof with a total of one (1)1 bedroom, one (1) kitchen and two (2) bathrooms.

Williamsville Guest House, LLC, through Jonathan Julian as representative of this LLC grieved in June, and at the grievance hearing, Mr. Julian did not present any evidence to support a change in the valuation of the property. The Listers did not change valuation; improvements had been made to 32 Dover Road since the Listers’ last visit.  As combined properties now under Williamsville Guest House, LLC, the property and two buildings are assessed at $694,100. Exhibit 2 provided comparables. Divided between card 1 and card 2. The Listers used Newfane Inn & Restaurant and made adjustments; They also used Frog Meadow, which has buildings.  They commended Mr. Julian for the very nice job he has done on both of the properties that are now combined under one deed and are contiguous properties, even though Dover Road “separates” them. The State of Vermont requires that all contiguous properties under one owner are to be combined for tax purposes. The Listers used the assessment tables and plugged in information and believe that the 2015 valuation of $694,000 is equitable and fair.

Bill Murray, Realtor from Berkley and Veller, represented Mr. Julian. He introduced the concept of fair market value: in today’s market, how much could the property be sold for?

He considered the premise of joining the two properties as absurd. He indicate that the church only has water and septic as shared by a third property. If the church were to be sold separately, the lack of well and septic will be a deterrent to the property’s market value.

Mr. Murray then focused on 32 Dover Road. Exhibit 1 indicated the length of time the property was on the market before it sold. He pointed out that the combined properties with the “second” building not valued as highly because few people want two buildings. In Windham County, the market has changed from “bigger is better” to families not wanting the large houses.

He considers that $400,000 for the main building at 32 Dover Road would be a fair price, and noted that this is close to the $428,000 assessment that the Listers have.

Ms. Knechtel, as a last statement said that if the properties had not been mandated to be combined, the value, if maintained as two separate parcel would have been $17,200 more.

Gloria Cristelli pointed out that Williamsville Guest House, LLC, by deed, is the “owner” of the property and, as such, had to be combined.

Carol Hatcher, Marion Dowling, and Gloria Cristelli volunteered to be on the site visit team and will visit the property on Monday, August 17th at 9:30 a.m.

Appellant Three: Jeffrey Holmes with permission from owners as of April 1, 2015: Valerie Trudeau and Vicki Lynn Cromwell—7:10 pm; Parcel ID# 00B183.3, property only on VT Route 30

Doris Knechtel, representing the Listers described the property as follows: property consists of 4.98 acres classified as Miscellaneous Land.

The Listers presented three exhibits as follows:

Exhibit 1:        Assessment card for 00B183.3

Exhibit 2:       Comparable property spread sheet with corresponding assessment cards

Exhibit 3:        Tax Map of Property

Exhibit 4:       A letter of the June 19, 2015 grievance assessment by the Listers

Mr. Holmes grieved in June with permission of property owners and a second grievance was held for the property owners, Valerie Trudeau and Vicki Lynn Cromwell. At neither grievance was there any evidence provided by the owners of record or the buyer to the Listers. There was no change to the assessed value.

Ms. Knechtel said that in Mr. Holmes’s letter requesting the appeal, Mr. Holmes indicated that his property has a 50% water front extra valuation. The Listers extrapolated information from similar properties in their comparables. The subject property’s location on VT Route 30 gives the property a higher value by location. Ms. Knechtel pointed out that if the subject property did not have the influence factor of +50% waterfront, the value would be $63,900, in line with the comparables.

Jeffrey Holmes represented the owners of record and himself as the buyer with permission from the owners of record.

Mr. Homes presented three exhibits as follows:

Exhibit 1:        Natural Resources Atlas map indicating the wetland on his property

Exhibit 2:       An aerial view of his property

Exhibit 3:        A second aerial view with property boundaries outlined

Exhibit 4:       Property Transfer Tax Return, page one indicating price paid for property      on July 1, 2015

Mr. Holmes said that the Zoning Administrator showed him that the property is in the FEMA floodplain and that Newfane’s Zoning Bylaw does not allow any building in the floodplain. He has no access to electricity and is still figuring out access to his property. Mr. Holmes has an active building permit to construct a 40’ x 120’ building for storage. He said that the building just barely fits into the property outside the floodplain. The waterfront portion has a drop of eight (8) feet, and he realizes that he cannot build anything on that land and would most likely never receive permission to access the West River from that portion of land. He indicated that the State of Vermont has dumped debris on the property and that the wooded area is wetland. He referred to the aerial views of the property. Mr. Holmes said that he talked to Assess Pro, the company Newfane uses to calculate property tax valuation, and found out that Assess Pro does not have a feature to take into account the floodplain. He also indicated that during heavy rain or flooding, a culvert that runs under VT Route 30 delivers all of the sediment, water, and debris onto his property from the property directly across VT Route 30.

Frank Suponski, a Lister, asked Mr. Holmes what the flags in the field are, and Mr. Holmes said that they are to indicate an area that he is having mowed. Mr. Suponski suggested then that the other land, then, could be used for agricultural purposes. Ms. Knechtel also pointed out that all the land is classified as miscellaneous, not residential.

Greg Record, Todd Lawley, and Richard Marek volunteered to be the site visit committee and will go to the property on Wednesday,  August 12th at 8 a.m. Mr. Holmes gave permission for them to go onto the property without his being present.

Appellant 4: Dimas Newfane, LLC, Parcel ID# 00D130, 166 Newfane Hill Road

Represented by Stanley Noga, Jr., Mr. Dmitry Ulyanov was present.

Carol Hatcher recused herself since she is a neighbor.

The Listers provided two exhibits as follows:

Exhibit 1:        Assessment card for 00B182.1

Exhibit 2:       Comparable property spread sheet with corresponding assessment cards

The property consists of 97.3 acres with a contemporary building (card 1) built about 1988 having a grade of B (Good), with a clapboard exterior and asphalt shingle roof with a total of three (3) bedrooms, two (2) kitchens and four (4) bathrooms, plus a 20’ x 14’ pool house and an in-ground pool. There is a second building (card 2) that is a conventional built about 1990 having a grade B (Good), having a clapboard exterior and asphalt shingle roof with a total of four (4) rooms and one (1) bathroom, plus an in-ground pool, a sauna and a tennis court.

Doris Knechtel, representing the Listers, said that Mr. Ulyanov called and wanted to grieve his property. The Listers conducted a hearing on June 16, 2015 when Mr. Ulyanov gave them an appraisal done by Stanley Noga, Jr. of Everett Real Estate. Frank Suponski and Doris Knechtel inspected the property and made changes in the appraised value of the main house. They lowered the main house from A+ (Excellent) to B (Good), lowered the grade of 4 bathrooms and 2 other fixtures from Very Good to Good, lowered the grade of the kitchen from Very Good to Good, lowered the grad of the fireplace from Very Good to Good and recorded 35% other depreciation. These changes resulted in an overall decrease in the assessment of $344,400 or 26.13%.

The Listers found it hard to find comparables because this is a very unique property. They chose Herman Leonard and Kathryn Angell’s property, Frog Meadow and Jeffery Kane on Depot Road. These properties have additional buildings and two have apartment  garages; Leonard/Angel’s property and Jeffrey Kane’s have views though access topography is an issue with Kane’s property. Using their standard assessment process, the Listers feel that the valuation change after grievance is fair and equitable in keeping with the other properties in Newfane. They consider this property as very unique but not very well maintained.

Stanley Noga, Jr. represented Mr. Ulyanov for Dimas Newfane, LLC.  Mr. Noga presented two packets as exhibits:

Exhibit 1:        Differences noted since the adjustment made by Listers, dated June 30, 2015.

Exhibit 2:       Appraisal of Real Property for 166 Newfane Hill Road as of April 1, 2015

Stan Noga—appraisal effective date of April 1, Sales 2006-2014; as of April 1, 2015

Mr. Noga pointed out discrepancies in square footage between the Listers’ measurements and his own. He noted that not all of the square footage in the basement is finished as the Listers show. He pointed out physical depreciation issues and functional depreciation. He noted that there is no Functional Obsolescence and Specific Amenities, like the pools, tennis court, sauna and inground pool, and the MLS results of sales with houses between 3,100 and 4,000 square feet. He summarized his conclusions as follows: “With MLS guidance for sales, I feel that with the use of correct finished area both above grade and below grade and appropriate quality grade and depreciation rates, the valuation as determined by the Cost Approach will be brought into compliance with market value.”

The Listers did not have any rebuttal.

Dennis Wiswall observed that the amenities add appeal but not value in return at the sale of the property.

Priscilla Cotton, Gloria Cristelli, and Greg Record agreed to be the site visit team and will go to the property on August 26th at 10 a.m.

Richard Marek moved to recess the hearing until August 20, 2015 at 6 p.m. Gloria Cristelli seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously and the hearing recessed at 8:35 p.m.

Gloria J. Cristelli

BCA Recorder

August 14, 2015, draft completed and uploaded onto website