Cushing waterfront property owners seek 55 percent tax cut

Posted June 07, 2012, at 7:05 p.m.

CUSHING, Maine — The town is facing the loss of more than $116,000 in property taxes for last year alone after abatement requests from dozens of property owners in three high-end waterfront developments.

The attorney for the property owners claimed that a series of events has made the value of the lots well below what the town has them assessed.

“There is no market out there except for the distress sales,” attorney Alton Stevens of Waterville told assessors Thursday afternoon as several of the property owners watched the proceedings.

The Cushing Board of Assessors took no action on the request but said it will contact an appraiser it is familiar with and see if he will do an appraisal. The assessors will meet again July 19 at the town office.

The properties are within three waterfront developments — Hornbarn Hill, Gaunt Neck and Meduncook Plantation. The residential subdivisions were created in 2005-2006 by developer James Tower. The developments were controversial and the town and Tower clashed in court over a variety of issues.

Stevens said the controversy between the developer and the town made it into the newspaper, there was a flood of high-end waterfront lots entering the real estate market and the developer lost the properties to the bank, which combined to depress values.

A sizable portion of the abatement is being sought by Machias Savings Bank, which took ownership of undeveloped lots in the subdivisions.

The property owners claim that the properties need to be reduced in value by nearly $9 million. Machias Savings Bank has requested that its properties be reduced in value by more than $2.5 million.

If the property values were reduced by 55 percent by the town, the loss of tax value would be more than $116,000 for 2011.

Stevens said that even property sales by private owners in these developments who are not in financial distress are selling for less than bank distress sales in other areas of Cushing.

Evelyn Kalloch, chairwoman of the board of assessors, noted that the properties are not undeveloped lots and have access to a tennis court and piers. Board member Carole Leporati agreed, noting that this was not simply raw land but had underground utilities and roads, wells and septic systems.

The abatement request is for 2011 property taxes. Many of the same owners lost their request for a 20 percent abatement for 2010 and filed a lawsuit in March in Knox County Superior Court. That abatement would cost the town about $50,000 if the property owners prevail.

The abatement requests comes as the town is undertaking a communitywide revaluation. Maine Assessment Appraisal Services of Dixmont is doing the revaluation for $97,000. Cushing assessors agent Garnett Robinson said property owners should receive notices on their proposed new valuations in August or September.

The last revaluation by the town was in 2003.

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