Two of the three houses where owners argue their property assessments should be zero.
Residents suing the town over house damage they say was caused by the construction of the new Cole Middle School are negotiating with the town over property assessments they say should be zero.
The three couples own houses on Sarah’s Trace, which sits south and west of the middle school. According to their lawsuit, their houses suffered cracks throughout because of the large vibratory rollers used to compact the ground during construction.
The last tax assessments were “statistical” revaluations – based on existing information in the assessment files and an analysis of current market conditions, not on visits to the property (as is being done now).
When the Sarah’s Trace residents appealed their tax assessments in 2012, the revaluation company visited each of the houses and, taking into account cracks seen during the visits, they deemed the two properties closest to the middle school to be in “poor” condition and the third house, which is across the street, in “fair” condition.
Property assessments are split into two to three categories: a value is placed on the actual land, another value is placed on the building on the land (houses in these cases), and a third value is given if there are “yard items” such as a pool or a shed.
Fair and poor classifications allow for a 20 percent depreciation in the assessed value of the buildings on the property. There is no depreciation in the land value.
For the Lamendola house, at 50 Sarah’s Trace, the new, reduced valuation was $501,700 – the land valued at $174,400, the house valued at $311,600, and the yard items (a pool and two shed) valued at $15,700.
For the Hogan/Pelosi house, at 40 Sarah’s Trace, the reduced valuation was $400,100 – land at $158,700 and house at $241,400.
For the Amellotte house, at 35 Sarah’s Trace, the reduced valuation was $435,000, with the land at $149,000, the house at $277,000, and the yard items (pool and shed) at $9,200.
The reductions, however, were not enough for the homeowners, who are looking for the whole value – land, buildings and yard items – of their properties to be reduced to zero.
They appealed the decision to the town Board of Assessment Review, which was to hear the case March 12 but the town called off the hearing that morning after the two sides decided to try to negotiate a settlement.
“We’re exploring whether we can reach a resolution. They’re not worth nothing,” said EG Town Solicitor Peter Clarkin about the properties. “We decided before we go through the whole [appeal] process, to see if there’s something we can do to resolve it.”
He added, “There’s no harm in seeing if we can do something. If it turns out we’re miles apart, then …”
If the town Board of Assessment Review denies the homeowners’ appeal, they could appeal to Superior Court.
Dave Maglio, lawyer for the homeowners, declined to comment on the exact nature of the negotiations but he did offer a comparison to explain how houses people are still living in could be worth nothing. He likened them to a business in financial straits.
The two sides have agreed to talk until May 14, the date of the next Board of Assessment Review meeting.