GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 29, 2013

Essex pressing Conomo tenants for owed taxes

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ESSEX — The town’s selectmen are crafting letters demanding owed tax money from a handful of Conomo Point residents, according to tonight’s agenda.

While some do owe backed taxes to the town on their lots, this is the first other tenants have heard about the issue.

Conomo Point Road resident Angela Maurceri said Friday she had no prior notice about owing any money to the town — and she is not the only one.

The agenda indicates that Mauceri, Daniel Mayer, Mark Webber, Charlotte Spintig and Judson and Andrew Pratt will all receive “demand of payment” letters.

While Judson Pratt and others are engaged in an ongoing lawsuit with the town as to who owns the homes, all of those targeted by the letters demanding payment — and dozens of other Conomo Point residents — have filed for tax abatements.

Their claim is that the appraisal rates on land and houses, which were set by the town, are far too high.

“At one time we considered not paying the full amount, but we did,” Maurceri added.

According to the town’s assessing records, the Pratt property on Robbins Island Road, which measures about one tenth of an acre, is valued at $580,400, up from $321,500.

In previous assessments, both the building and land value have fluctuated; some years the building value has gone up while the land value remains the same, other years the two values remain steady.

Pratt’s property is not unique, other Conomo Point properties have varied from year to year and the assessing records for 2013 have two different values for each property.

Essex Treasurer and Tax Collector Virginia Boutchie said Spiting owes about $2,700 between taxes, interest and fees to the town while the Pratt property has about $11,241 owed on it from fiscal 2012 and 2013.

Town officials say others owe rent to the town. Conomo Point residents have long paid both rent to the town, which owns the property, and property taxes on the houses themselves. That is one of the issues at the forefront of the dispute between the town and the residents, with town officials — through their Boston-based law firm, Kopelman & Paige – claiming that the town is actually owner of the houses as well.

The appraisals are being questioned in court, and are a part of a lawsuit alleging the lease rates on the houses are also abnormally high.

Selectmen Jeffery Jones and Lisa O’Donnell did not return calls placed by the Times; selectmen Susan Coviello said last week she had not yet studied the issue.

Selectmen are also set to extended bridge leases for other properties and update deeds for others during their meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at T.O.H.P. Burnham Library.

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