GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 20, 2013

Conomo residents challenge appraisals

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ESSEX — Arguing the appraisal rates set for land and buildings on Conomo Point, nearly 60 Conomo residents have filed for tax appeals for fiscal 2012 with the state Appellate Tax Board.

Some of the appeals stem from a previous agreement with the town in which officials and more than 120 residents were seeking abatement appeals regarding their properties throughout Conomo Point.

In April of 1998, Conomo Point residents and town officials reached an agreement to reduce the land value by 30 percent, in order to avoid litigation and further tax abatements. In the agreement, residents disputed the property values with the Board of Assessors, citing the absence of a water supply, septic systems as well subdivision and zoning issues.

In addition, the agreement states that the only factor that would result in an increase in appraisal value would be an increase of square foot unit price.

But one resident said that the 30-percent increase in land value was added back into the land value as the agreement was set to come to a close.

Residents were only able to file tax abatements after the agreement ended, according to court documents. But when Richard Rettberg filed his abatement in January 2012, it was denied.

Those abatements are now being appealed as residents argue that the fiscal 2012 assessment values are far too high. Rettberg, for example, argues his property should be assessed at $174,600 rather than the current assessed value of $288,600.

If the Appellate Tax Board does find the properties were not properly assessed, Point residents could stand to recoup the differences on their tax bills; Rettberg, for instance, would be awarded just over $2,500.

The Appellate Tax Board is no stranger to Conomo cases. In October 2012, a former resident was ordered to pay more than $185,000 in a deficiency assessment ruling. Additionally, the resident was also granted an abatement of more than $344,000; however, the issues at the heart of that dispute centered on full-time residency, not assessment value.

In a status conference last week, residents brought up another issue that would affect the current case — the lawsuit disputing the second-year bridge lease rates in northern Conomo Point.

The lease rates in northern Conomo Point and property appraisals were all done by Richard Tyburski of the Tyburski Appraisal Corporation.

According to court documents, residents have a chance to narrow the scope of the hearing and seek a ruling by March 13, while the town’s assessors can file an opposition no later than April 3. A hearing on motions filed is set to take place on April 11.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.