Eagle County is expecting a late flood of protests
EAGLE COUNTY ” The drastic increase in property valuations had spurred only 559 appeals in Eagle County by mid-May, but Assessor Mark Chapin is prepared for an onslaught before the month is over.
History shows he has cause for concern. In 2007, the last time re-evaluations were mandated by the state government, there were about 5,500 protests in Eagle County. Property values spiked by a greater amount this time around, in general, so Chapin and his hearing officers expect to be busy over the next two weeks.
“The appeal numbers right now are low. I didn’t know why,” Chapin said. “They aren’t as high as we were anticipating them to be.”
The number of protests coming from the Basalt and El Jebel areas seems proportional to the area’s population in Eagle County, Chapin said. The assessor’s office is holding appeal hearings in the Eagle County annex in El Jebel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout May. Tuesday was the big day last week when 40 people appealed by presenting information to show why they felt their property values were too high.
The revaluation hit the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County harder than the Eagle Valley. The median increase for single-family homes values in Eagle County was 13 percent. It was 38 percent for the Basalt and El Jebel area, according to Chapin.
Lower-end, more affordable housing was hit especially hard. The high demand and low supply, coupled with rapid appreciation, sent what had been the most affordable housing soaring in price in 2007 and into 2008, according to Chapin.
Houses in Sopris Village, an older working class neighborhood behind the El Jebel City Market, generally increased as much as 52 percent.
Blue Lake homeowner Chris Maniscalchi saw his house value soar 37 percent.
“I kind of expected it, based on the information the counties were giving out,” he said.
Maniscalchi said he intends to appeal. He has been in his neighborhood since 1992 so he knows which houses have sold recently. He will use the Eagle County assessor’s website to research sales prices between Jan. 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008, the period the assessor was required to use to determine current values.
Maniscalchi said he also will use other sources to research information on how long homes in his neighborhood have been on the market and how much the listing prices have fallen.
He’s uncertain he will get his value reduced but is willing to take the time to try. “Even if it’s a moot point, I think it’s a good exercise,” he said.
Maniscalchi, like other homeowners, wants Gov. Bill Ritter and the Legislature to intervene on the valuation issue. He wants them to use their power to hold property values at their 2007 level since the economy was doing so poorly. The higher valuations would be easier to accept if the economy was still strong, he said.
To protest valuations, Eagle County residents can notify the assessor’s office by calling 1-800-225-6136 toll free. Specific appointments aren’t made, but protesters can request a morning or afternoon session.
Two general types of protests are heard, Chapin said. Sometimes, property owners catch mistakes such as the square footage of their homes. More common are appeals that the assessor’s office valued property too high.
Chapin and other assessors are fighting an uphill battle getting people to accept the legal requirements of the revaluation. By law, the assessors must look at comparable sales between Jan. 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008. Property values hit a peak in early 2008 but have tumbled ever since. Many homeowners grumble that they couldn’t even list their homes for the price the assessor came up with.
Chapin said most of the people who have protested their valuations are aware of the time period used for the analysis. Nevertheless, they are “coming in chiefly to test the system,” he said.
Protesters shouldn’t expect immediate decisions from hearing officers. Decisions will be handed down by the end of June, Chapin said.
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