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Scarborough property tax appeals wrap up

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Scarborough property tax appeals wrap up

SCARBOROUGH — Deliberations on appeals of tax assessments on 22 Prout's Neck properties will begin at Jan. 21, after testimony wrapped up with a 4 1/2-hour hearing Tuesday night.

About a week before the Board of Assessment Review meets to deliberate those appeals of 2012 assessments, a lawsuit appealing the Dec. 17, 2013, board decision on 43 Pine Point and Higgins Beach properties is expected to be filed in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland, according to appellant Don Petrin of River Sands Drive.

Tuesday's hearing was a continuation of a Dec. 10, 2013, hearing into whether former Town Assessor Paul Lesperance discriminated against waterfront property owners when he increased land valuations on Prout's Neck properties by 14.5 percent.

Attorneys Jon Block and Bill Dale called on independent appraiser George Koutalakis and Leslie Craig, a designated broker with Doris Homer Real Estate, to establish Lesperance misread market conditions and used outdated sales data to justify the increases.

Koutalakis also testified in the failed appeals on Higgins Beach and Pine Point  properties. Craig specializes in Prout's Neck real estate and is familiar with real estate in the Piper Shores area between Prout's Neck and Higgins Beach.

The 16 Piper Shores-area properties were at the heart of Dale's discrimination claim. He focused on an April 26, 2012, sale in the area to ask why Lesperance and current assessor Bill Healey had not increased neighborhood valuations since 2005.

Told by Healey it was because the sale was deemed questionable as an "arms length" transaction in part because 10 acres of the land is in tree growth and because it was the only sale in the area, Dale suggested only one of eight Prout's Neck sales used by Lesperance to justify increased valuations was valid.

"We had more than one sale listed, you decided most of them were invalid," Healey said.

Koutalakis focused on about a half dozen Prout's Neck properties that sold at prices below assessed values to establish the recession of 2008 harmed property values.

“There is no sale post-recession that would lead anyone to include values increased in Prout's Neck post-recession,” Koutalakis said.

Craig agreed with him, and with Dale's argument that sales listed by Lesperance should have been excluded, including Black Point Inn land sold to investors in a private sale and land bought by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that did not involve a public offering or broker.

“There aren't any sales that support (the increase),” Craig said.

Koutalakis also said town-wide discrepancies in the ratios between assessed and market values were exacerbated on the waterfront, where only about 40 percent of the valuations fell within 90 to 110 of each other, as required by the state.

The appeals came after Lesperance revalued 754 waterfront properties in 2012, and increased assessments on 279. Waterfront land valuations increased in areas of Pine Point, Higgins Beach and Prout's Neck by as much as 25 percent, depending on the neighborhood.

One more appeal of a Prout's Neck property, led by Block, will be heard at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.