FARMINGTON — Contesting taxes assessed on his 269 Fairbanks Road property, Michael Deschenes pleaded his case for a reduction before the town’s Board of Assessment Review Thursday.
A complicated issue of valuation, the board decided it needed to walk through his home before rendering their decision. The board will meet at 2 p.m. Monday, April 26, to tour the home then reconvene the meeting at 3 p.m. at the town office.
Deschenes, a self-employed contractor for 25 years who said he has bought and fixed up 50 homes during that time, tried to plead his case before townspeople at the annual town meeting in March but was stopped because the issue was not on the town’s warrant.
According to Deschenes, the town’s assessor, Mark Caldwell, has reviewed his home almost yearly since he purchased the two story 1900 farmhouse and 43-acres in 2000.
“An assessor is mandated to keep on top of what’s going on,” said board member Tom Mellen. “As the renovation is an ongoing process, you’re going to probably see him every year.”
Deschenes also contends Caldwell’s assessment is higher than similar properties around town and that mistakes have been made. Mistakes that went against him.
Caldwell and Town Manager Richard Davis toured the home in January. Some mistakes were noted and Caldwell abated his assessment by over $29,000, Caldwell told the board.
Compiling a 70-page report after pulling tax records on several properties of similar size, age and condition, Deschenes contends that some of these properties were assessed at a lenient 50-60 percent of their value while his property was rated at 85-percent of value.
The first floor of his home has been gutted and refinished but other areas remain unfinished. The 110-year-old basement leaks when it rains but was assessed higher than a neighbor’s which has a new concrete foundation.
During the assessment, floors can’t be separated, Caldwell said, explaining the nice condition of the first floor.
The siding on his barn is only on the front and side so that it looks nice from the road but the barn needs major work, Deschenes said, noting pictures of the back of the structure. He claims his barn is assessed at “double every barn in town.”
Apartments in the carriage house, one completed for his mother, a second incomplete and a large workshop that will become an apartment has a foundation of stacked up rocks and is in really bad shape but is rated really good, he said.
Other issues addressed included inconsistent charges for road frontage and a “paper” subdivision that has never been developed but is assessed higher than similar developed subdivisions.
Some properties on Fairbanks Road are charged road frontage with some assessed anywhere from 20 to 60 percent, while others are not charged at all including commercial properties. His property is one of three, he said, that are charged at 100 percent.
The more road frontage the more value assessed to the property, Caldwell said. He expects assessment of road frontage to be reviewed when the town has a re-evaluation. Many lots in town are assessed road frontage, he said.
Previous owners had applied for a subdivision on acreage behind the house but gave up on the project. Deschenes knew of the plan when he bought the property but he was not aware he was being charged for it, he said.
The subdivision approval has been rescinded as requested but Caldwell said he didn’t feel it was assessed at all but added to the evaluation report to show enhancement to the value of the land.