FARMINGTON – County commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to grant a $15,000 abatement in property valuation to a New Vineyard couple.
New Vineyard selectmen/assessors valued the house and shed owned by Jonathan and Alyce Cavanaugh at $33,640 after a previous $5,000 reduction in value for its condition.
The Cavanaughs appealed town officials’ rejection of an abatement on the 2006 valuation to the commissioners, who held a hearing on the matter Tuesday.
The house at 403 Church St. has not been occupied since 1991, and before that it was only lived in on weekends during the summer, Jonathon Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh submitted an abatement request of $18,640 in value on the house only, which was built in the 1800s, to reduce the property’s value to $15,000.
Cavanaugh said the house is not livable, had no utilities and had been infested with porcupines for years.
He gave commissioners a stack of pictures to look through as he was outlining the deficiencies of the structure.
“In my opinion, the house is valued higher than some properties that are comparable,” Cavanaugh said.
He estimated it would cost $80,000 to $90,000 to make it livable.
When he requested an abatement from town officials, he said, he was told they could not abate it because there are structures on it that have value.
“I agree, they have value. I don’t agree with the value they’re placing on them,” he said.
Cavanaugh also said he hasn’t been given all information necessary on the abatement process and repeated requests to meet with selectmen for a walk through of the house were ignored.
A property is supposed to be valued on highest and best use, he said. “This is not a home, it is storage,” Cavanaugh said.
New Vineyard selectmen’s Chairman Fay Adams disputed Cavanaugh’s recall of the situation. She said that some selectmen walked through the house.
Selectmen did reduce the valuation of $38,700 set by the Gingras appraisal firm on the property in 2001 during the town’s revaluation to $33,640, she said.
When Cavanaugh’s letter requesting an abatement was submitted to the town, Adams said, there were no dollar amounts requested for an abatement and selectmen thought he wanted an abatement of the whole property.
“We never saw an abatement figure,” Adams said. She also added that selectmen have talked to Cavanaugh’s wife about the situation several times and Adams admitted making a mistake about directing them to the town’s Board of Appeals, which doesn’t hear tax cases. If the town had a board of assessment review, the case would be heard by them instead of going to commissioners for appeal.
Commission Chairman Gary McGrane of Jay asked Adams if the town has abatement request forms available for residents.
There are no forms, Adams said. People just request in writing that they would like an abatement, she said. Selectmen/assessors reduced the value of Cavanaugh’s house to $18,690 for 2007, she added.
It is up to the town to get the specifics from the property owner, McGrane said. Adams disagreed.
McGrane made a motion to grant Cavanaugh’s abatement, but it died for lack of second.
Commissioner Fred Hardy of New Sharon said it was difficult for a property owner to know how to go about getting an abatement on a property. He added the property could not have deteriorated to this shape in one year but he didn’t agree with Cavanaugh’s abatement amount.
Hardy’s motion was to abate $15,000 leaving the value of the house at $18,640, which was approved.
The town’s tax rate for 2006 was $12.80 per $1,000 of valuation, which means the Cavanaugh’s will get about $192 in tax money returned to them.