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Claremont: Don’t Revisit Ruling On Two Mills

Claremont — An attorney representing the city has asked the judge not to reconsider his denial of a property tax abatement sought by the owner of two renovated mill buildings on Water Street.

Attorney Robert Carey, with the Concord firm of Orr & Reno, said in a motion filed Wednesday in Sullivan County Superior Court that Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker was correct to rule that attorneys for property owner John Illick failed to prove their client was paying a disproportionate share of taxes compared to other property owners in the city.

In August, Tucker ruled that the properties at 21 and 29 Water St. were overassessed, as Illick claimed, but denied the property tax abatement sought by Illick on the grounds his attorneys failed to prove the tax burden on the mills was disproportionate to other properties in the city. Late last month, Illick’s attorneys filed a motion to reconsider, asking Tucker to take another look at the case.

Illick’s Sugar River Mills Redevelopment owns the Peterson building at 29 Water St., which is assessed at $2.3 million, and he is a partner in Claremont Mill Redevelopment, which owns the Wainshal building at 21 Water St., home to the Common Man Inn and Red River Computer. The city’s assessment of that property is $12.5 million.

Tucker backed the values proposed by Illick’s attorneys at the September 2012: the Peterson building, which was supposed to be converted to condominiums but is vacant, has a market value of $550,000, according to the judge, and the Wainshal building has a market value $3.9 million.

In the motion to reconsider, Illick’s attorney, Matt Cairns, of Concord, said the court’s finding that 21 and 29 Water St. are overassessed by more than 300 percent and 400 percent, respectively, should lead to the conclusion that Illick is being taxed disproportionately.

“To avoid such a conclusion, the city would need to make a showing that it assessed all properties at values of 300 percent to 400 percent more than their fair market value,” Cairns wrote.

Carey cited case law where the state Supreme Court has rejected such arguments. Claiming the difference between fair market and assessed values itself is evidence of a disproportionate tax bill “misconstrues the law and misstates their burden.”

“As the Supreme Court has noted, a property’s fair market value is a different question from a taxpayer’s proportionate share of taxes. Evidence of the former does not prove the latter,” Carey wrote.

Carey argued that it is “misleading and inaccurate” for the petitioners to suggest that the court is implying all city properties are grossly over assessed.

“Indeed, no such finding could have been made because the Petitioners offered no evidence as to the general level of assessment in the city or the relationship between the assessment on Petitioners’ property and the assessment of other property in the municipality,” Carey said.

He also noted that 2012 tax cards of other properties in the city were introduced at trial but there was no evidence as to their values in 2009 or how they demonstrated Illick’s properties were tax unfairly.

In a separate motion, Carey asked the court to also reject Cairns’ “motion for clarification,” asking that the values set by Tucker on the two properties should be applied in the tax years after 2009.

After Tucker issues his ruling on the two motions, either side could appeal to the Supreme Court.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.