May 24, 2018
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State gets Unorganized Territory abatement request

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A tax abatement hearing held here Tuesday regarding a seasonal resident’s property in the Unorganized Territory community of Chesuncook was Maine Revenue Services’ first tax abatement hearing in 12 years.

“This is the first time we’ve been before a county commissioners hearing on an abatement request in the 12 years I’ve been on the job,” Robert V. Doiron, Unorganized Territory supervisor of the property tax division of Maine Revenue Services, said Tuesday. “We think we treat people fairly.”

Maine Revenue Services assesses 21,000 parcels in the Unorganized Territory and uses the same methodology for all, according to Doiron.

Francis Henry of Norridgewock, who requested the hearing, said he believes his property value is too high considering comparable properties, including some with frontage on Chesuncook Lake. For example, he said a neighboring camp similar to his is valued at $69,000, yet his property, which in not on the waterfront, is valued at $83,840.

“If I’m paying the right taxes, everybody else up there is paying the wrong taxes,” Henry said Tuesday. “There seems to be no justification in how they are taxed. There seems to be no consistency whatsoever in the way they are valuing the property.”

Henry said his lot is 100 feet by 300 feet, but much of it is too steep for use. In addition, the state assessed him for two camps, although his former camp is now used as a storage shed, he said.

Doiron, who was joined at the hearing by Tom Walker, the state’s senior appraiser, and Tom Tibbetts, a state field property appraiser, said the state did grant Henry about a $4,500 reduction in his assessed value because his newest building was not completed when the property was assessed. That was the only reduction needed, according to Doiron. But it wasn’t as much as Henry wanted.

Doiron said the state values structures that are on a property, not what they are used for. As for Henry’s request for a 50 percent reduction in value based on the steepness of the lot, Doiron said that’s not unusual in Maine.

“Steepness, swamps and swale grass” are not details taken into consideration in values, he said. Typically, most lots are not perfectly situated, he noted.

“I honestly didn’t see any basis to reduce his camp lot value based on what he presented us for evidence,” Doiron said. “The fact there is some steepness to it is a reality with any parcel. It may be steep, it may be rocky, it may be ledgy, it may be wet, but with two camps on it already, as far as we’re concerned, for a 0.45-acre lot, it’s at its highest and best use that you’ll ever have out of the land.”

Henry said he just wants fairness in state valuations.

The commissioners are expected to act on the abatement request within the next few weeks.

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