Some land values shooting sky high: Town adjusts tax assessments

MOUNT DESERT — The owners of 26 properties in town have received a shock in the form of a notice that the assessed value of their land is being adjusted upward – more than 64 percent in one case.

At the same time, the assessments on 28 other properties are being reduced.

Tax Assessor Kyle Avila made the adjustments after looking at the sale price of similar properties in the same neighborhoods or parts of town over the past few years. He found that, town wide, the average assessed value was an acceptable 95 percent of the average sale price.

“Yet, within that analysis across the whole town, there are concentrated areas of sales consistently higher than the assessed value, indicating adjustments are necessary in those areas to maintain equalization with the rest of the town,” Avila said in a memo to the Board of Selectmen.

“Specifically, sale prices of waterfront lots at Pond’s End on Long Pond and interior developed lots on Manchester Road in Northeast Harbor are selling high,” he said.

Avila also found that there have been “concentrated areas of sales occurring lower than the assessed value.”

“Vacant land in the Woods Road subdivision and lots in the Oak Grove Road neighborhood are selling low.”

Avila said the assessed value of 13 properties on Manchester Road has gone up by an average of 20 percent. The assessment on one of those lots has increased 9 percent. But two other lots have each seen their assessments hiked by 37.5 percent.

The average increase in assessment for 13 properties on Long Pond is 28 percent.

In general, the larger the lot, the greater the increase.

“A couple of the large vacant lots on Long Pond had a pretty hefty increase, which skewed the average,” Avila said.

The assessed value of one 10.3-acre lot on Long Pond went from $649,100 last year to nearly $1.07 million, an increase of 64.3 percent.

Dana and Lucille Haynes, who live in Northeast Harbor, own a 0.4-acre waterfront lot with a small camp off Ripples Road near Pond’s End. As of last year, the assessed value of the land was $337,800. Now it is $434,500, an increase of 28.5 percent. At the current tax rate of $7.95 per $1,000 of property valuation, the Hayneses will be paying an additional $765.59 in taxes to the town.

While the assessment of some property in Mount Desert has gone up, the assessed value of 16 lots in the Woods Road subdivision has gone down by an average of 10 percent. Assessments in the Oak Grove neighborhood have dropped by an average of 6.5 percent.

Avila noted that, in all cases, adjustments have been made to land values only, not to houses or other structures.

He mailed notices of increased assessments to affected property owners at the beginning of January and invited them to contact him if they felt their new assessment was made in error. He told the Islander last Friday that he had heard from the owners of three Manchester Road lots and two lots on Long Pond.

Avila said in his memo to the selectmen that assessors in Maine are required by law to assess property “at a relatively uniform rate with comparable property” in the same area.

“When a property value is too high, the owner is helping to pay the taxes of others,” he said. “If it is too low, the owner is getting a ‘free ride’ to some extent.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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