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Claremont, Mill Owner Set to Attend Mediation on Taxes

Claremont — The owner of two mill district properties on Water Street and the city have agreed to mediation in an attempt to resolve a tax abatement case that has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

A case manager at the court in Concord said a mediation agreement was filed Wednesday by the over, John Illick, stating that the parties involved have tentatively agreed to mediation.

Court rules require mediation in certain types of cases as a first step after an appeal is filed.

The court will now forward a formal mediation agreement, and once that is signed by both parties and the $200 fee paid, a date will be scheduled for both sides to sit down before a mediator for a confidential session. The parties will have 90 days to try to reach a settlement. Failing a settlement, the case would proceed.

Illick, owner of the vacant Peterson building at 29 Water St. and an investor and partner in the Wainshal building, home of the Common Man Inn and Red River Computer at 21 Water St., appealed the case to the Supreme Court last month.

In September, Sullivan County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker ruled in the city’s favor on Illick’s tax abatement request for 2009. Illick, through his attorney Matt Cairns of Concord, argued that city grossly overassessed the two renovated mill buildings overlooking the Sugar River at $3.9 million and $12.5 million, respectively.

Though Tucker concurred with Illick’s expert witness that the renovated buildings have a fair market value of $550,000 for 29 Water St., and $3.9 million for 21 Water St., he ruled that the plaintiffs did not prove they were being taxed disproportionately compared to other properties in the city.

A motion to reconsider the decision was filed by Cairns and then denied by Tucker.

City Manager Guy Santagate said Wednesday the city will try mediation.

“If the Supreme Court recommends it, I’m going to follow their recommendation,” Santagate said, pointing out there were numerous attempts by both sides to resolve the case prior to the trial in 2012.

“Anytime you have a chance to talk, I think it is the wise thing to do,” Santagate said. “What the results will be, who knows, but I’m all for talking. Not to do it, to me, is being close-minded and we’re not going to do that.”

At stake in the case is about $300,000 the city would have to refund to Illick for 2009 alone and probably at least that much for the three subsequent years should the city lose.

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