Agricultural landowners appeal new valuations
July 12, 2012
ASPEN – Some owners of agricultural property in Pitkin County are disputing the higher value assigned to their properties under a state law that went into effect this year.
County commissioners on Wednesday voted to appoint hearing officers to take up appeals of property valuations assigned by the county Assessor’s Office. Most of the appeals so far have come from agricultural landowners, said Larry Fite, the office’s chief appraiser.
A bill the state Legislature passed last year instructed assessors across Colorado to value the 2 acres beneath the residence on agricultural parcels as residential property if the home isn’t integral to an agricultural operation. The houses themselves always were assigned market values, but the land beneath them no longer automatically receives an agricultural exemption. Without the exemption, the land is taxed at a higher rate, which has implications on the owners’ property tax bills.
Residences that were likely to retain the exemption are on properties in the county that have been historically ranched and where the homeowners are involved in the daily management of an agricultural enterprise.
Last year, the Assessor’s Office said 140 properties classified as agricultural would be reviewed and subject to potential revaluation this year. The change wound up affecting 125 properties, Fite reported. Of them, nine are taking their appeals to the next step beyond the Assessor’s Office – a hearing officer.
“We didn’t really receive a huge number of appeals from that,” Fite said.
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New this year, the officers will sit as a panel to hear appeals rather than officers being assigned to review individual cases, according to County Manager Jon Peacock.
“We think it’s going to be a better process to ensure an accurate assessment, given that this is brand new,” he said of the revaluation of agricultural properties.
The hearing officers act as the county’s Board of Equalization, taking up appeals after a property owner first asks the Assessor’s Office to adjust the valuation it assigns to a property. Property owners have until July 16 to file an appeal with the Board of Equalization.