In an ongoing dispute, Natrona County officials say they need proof Chevron’s Wind Farm has caused nearby home values to drop before they would consider lowering property taxes.
A realtor’s survey in August found the values of homes adjacent to the wind farm had declined; and, in the case of Stan Mundy, whose property abuts the project, that his home was “virtually unsellable” at a reasonable price. It also found no area home sales had been made by realtors in over a year. But county records show 11 homes have sold in the past year (apparently through private sales). Those prices were also used by the County Assessor to establish this year’s tax valuations for the rural subdivision. The valuations dropped slightly, as did many countywide.
Mundy has been fighting the county over the large wind towers, alleging the county acted improperly in approving their placement.
The Natrona County Board of Equalization last month denied Mundy’s request for a property tax reduction, noting he failed to submit anything to back his claim, and did not appear at his hearing.
“Because there was no evidence, there was nothing for us to act on,” said County Commissioner and Board of Equalization member Ed Opella in defense of the denial.
“We want to be fair,” Opella said, “…but we have to follow the rules.” He explained under state guidelines, written evidence must be provided to the Board at least 15 days prior to a hearing date, so it can be reviewed.
On the hearing application, Mundy asked that the property tax valuation on his 50 acres be lowered from $90,848 to $75,000 because of the wind farm. Mundy agreed he had not submitted anything else, saying the letter he received about the hearing was not definitive on what would be admissible. He had also anticipated being able to change his hearing date, because he was going to be at his daughter’s graduation from Army boot camp in South Carolina. The County Commissioners, however, denied the date change, citing the cost of hiring a legal reporter.
Last Thursday, the Commissioners voted to affirm the recommendations of the Board.
Natrona County Attorney Bill Knight said Mundy would have needed to submit a property assessment that countered the one made by the County Assessor’s Office. Knight further noted that a realtor’s “property survey” would not have outweighed the county’s “assessment”.
Natrona County Assessor Susan DeWitt said because of state regulations guiding Board of Equalization procedures, even if Mundy was to provide another assessment, it was too late for her to request a re-hearing before the Board this year.
Mundy can now appeal the Board’s decision to the State Board of Equalization, but because he did not submit anything to be reviewed, his chances of success would likely be limited.
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