LAKE PLACID - The North Elba town board has agreed to reduce the assessments of two properties for the next few years as part of a settlement with their owners.
The board approved both settlement agreements unanimously at a meeting last week. North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi said it's the town's policy to reduce future assessments rather than refund property owners at the expense of other taxpayers.
"The whole concept is, even though the assessment is reduced substantially - it will change immediately at the end of the term - it's only to save the taxpayers (and the school district) from having to come up with more money," he said.
Ron Briggs, the town's attorney, said one of the settlements was with MH Communities Ltd., the company that owns the Cascade Acres mobile home park in Lake Placid. The company's dispute with the town dates back to a 2010 lawsuit that claimed the town over-assessed its property between 2006 and 2010.
In 2010, MH Communities argued that its property was worth $1.6 million. North Elba's past assessments valued the property at as much as $6.4 million.
Briggs said the settlement discontinues the 2006 to 2011 tax years and sets the property's value for 2012 to 2014 at $250,000, "which is what you need to reduce it to to generate in savings what they would have been entitled to in refunds.
"The proposed settlement reflects the town's position that it does not make refunds, but rather the savings that you would get by a reduction would be prospective by reducing the assessments in the future to generate savings in future tax bills (equal) to that which you would have received in a refund," he said.
Briggs said the refund figures would have been significant. He didn't provide an exact figure, but it would have been well over $100,000. The property's assessment will return to full value by 2016, Briggs added.
Politi said that if the town didn't agree to the settlement, it would have had to go to court.
"There's a lot of risks," he said. "This is a way to save money and still get the assessment back up at some point."
The town also agreed to reduce future assessments for Aldi, which owns a supermarket in Saranac Lake, within the town of North Elba. Briggs said that company has disputed the 2008 to 2012 tax years.
Under the settlement, Aldi will discontinue its action against the town for the 2008 to 2010, and the 2011 assessment will be reduced from about $2.38 to $1.5 million. Assessments for 2013 to 2015 will not exceed $1.5 million, Briggs said.
"It's another good settlement," he said.
Politi said the settlements avoid costly refunds like the ones the town, the school district and Essex County were forced to pay in 2009 after a lengthy assessment dispute with the owners of the Whiteface Lodge. At the time, those entities had to pay refunds totaling $1.35 million.
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.