Town, Sarah’s Trace Residents Negotiating Property Assessments

by | Apr 7, 2014


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 stock of that business can be considered worthless,” he said. 

The two sides have agreed to talk until May 14, the date of the next Board of Assessment Review meeting.



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dan speca
dan speca
April 7, 2014 6:54 pm

The desire for a $0 valuation is nothing more than a negotiating tactic.

The homeowners’ attorney should also really take a business class, for his comparison of the home value to the value of a failing business is skewed. Although the stock price of a failing business might be worthless, there are still assets worth something, possibly real estate worth something, etc etc…these homes still carry a value, as does the land they sit on. Are they worth as much as they once were? Maybe not (I haven’t been inside and can’t comment on any construction-induced damage), but worthless?

EG Attorney
EG Attorney
April 8, 2014 4:26 pm

@dan…no disrespectsir but in the State of RI real estate tax is determined by the Fair Market Value (RI State Statute Chapter 44-5). What is the FMV of these homes?…this would have to be determined by a (in this case I would assume) a RE expert appraiser who is qualified to determine the FMV. If the cost to repair or replace the RE is more than the Fair market Value of the property ,which includes land and improvements, than yes the value of the RE can be $0. How did the tax assessor come up with the FMV?

It sounds by what I am hearing and reading that these homes are distressed and could also be stigmatized which could also devalue the property. Remember someone who would purchase these homes, if sellable would have to probably retain a mortgae, insurance and risk their own money…..not knowing all the details it doesn’t sound good if the town is negotiating! The real question is what does it do to the RE value of the neighborhood?


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