Oil family says Aspen appraisal too high
ASPEN A Denver oil tycoon’s family says the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office overvalued an Aspen house by more than $400,000, and is suing to lower the appraisal.Relatives of oil tycoon Jack Grynberg, president of Grynberg Petroleum Co., have asked a Pitkin County district judge to slash the value the assessor’s office set by approximately $341,000, after earlier convincing a county appeals board to cut the value by an initial $100,000.If granted, the new assessment would reduce the home’s tax bill by a maximum of $898, according to appraisers with the county assessor’s office.The assessor’s office valued the Grynberg home at 1445 Sierra Vista Drive in Aspen at $1.84 million this year, according to court documents. The home is held in the name of trusts created in 1986 for Rachel Susan Grynberg, Stephen Mark Grynberg and Miriam Zela Grynberg.The owners appealed the assessment, claiming that the home is “uninhabitable due to severe water damage and an asbestos spill,” according to the lawsuit. The owners asked Assessor Tom Isaac to reconsider and cut the assessment to $1.398 million. The appeal, however, was rejected, appraiser Wendy Schultz said, in part because “we had no concrete evidence saying there was a problem.”Officials said last week that the assessor’s office does not typically inspect every one of the 14,000 homes under its jurisdiction to set new valuations. But an inspection is customary when appeals are filed.Schultz said she visited the home to inspect it, but did not go inside because Grynberg attorney Samuel Yahn of Denver “said it wouldn’t be a good idea.” She added that there were no official indications, such as paperwork on file with Aspen’s Environmental Health Department or the Community Development Department, regarding any attempt to remedy the home’s state of disrepair.The next step for the family was to appeal to the Pitkin County Board of Equalization, where at a hearing on July 31 Yahn presented evidence of the damage to the home, as well as an insurance estimate that it would cost $100,000 to fix the damage, Schultz reported.The board agreed to reduce the valuation by that amount, dropping the value to $1.74 million, but that apparently was not enough to satisfy the owners and they filed the lawsuit on Aug. 30 in Pitkin County District Court.According to chief appraiser Larry Fite, were the appraisal dropped to $1.398 million, it would mean a tax bill of $3,671, as opposed to a bill of $4,569 on a valuation of $1.74 million.”It’s the most expensive, least effective way to appeal our decision,” Fite said of such lawsuits, noting that normally taxpayers will either appeal to the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals, or to binding arbitration, rather than take the matter to court.He noted that the last time a lawsuit of this type was filed was in 2005, and the suit has yet to go before a judge. That lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in December, he said.Yahn did not return phone calls to his office Friday.The Pitkin County Attorney’s Office has yet to receive formal notification of the lawsuit, according to staff members in that office.John Colson’s e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
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