Land values on U.S. 61 North soar on tax rolls

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 23, 2000

With new construction on U.S. 61 North, the Warren County tax assessor has been busy assigning higher values to land in the area, much to the displeasure of some owners.

Growth along the highway took off last year after plans were announced for the construction of a River Region hospital about a mile north of Culkin Road. The new Sherman Avenue Elementary opened across from the hospital site last fall. The hospital’s 64 acres that were valued at $100 per acre on the 1999 county tax rolls are valued at more than $19,000 per acre on the 2000 roll. The school property is tax exempt.

Tax Assessor Richard Holland said areas that were mostly woods a few years ago are quickly becoming commercial all along the stretch and taxes collected have to reflect the change.

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“As the assessor, I have a responsibility to put market values on the land,” Holland said. “When the hospital bought the property, things started going like hot cakes.”

But Joseph Strickland, a partner in Andover Group that owns 19 acres on U.S. 61 North west of the Bowie Road junction, said his new assessment is not fair.

“The valuation on the property increased nearly 7,000 percent,” Strickland told supervisors Monday.

Property taxes on the lot will go from $22.35 this year to about $2,229 when tax bills go out in December, and Strickland is asking supervisors to overrule the assessor and set the valuation more in line with previous years.

After two pieces of property on Bowie Road, just off the highway, sold for $10,000 an acre, Holland said he decided it was time to evaluate the property between Bowie and Interstate 20 for commercial value. He has recommended the Andover property, which has U.S. 61 frontage, be valued at $12,500 per acre.

“(The Andover property) is an investment piece of property for commercial development,” Holland said.

There is still land in the area with low taxes, but Holland said that’s land that hasn’t been touched. Two pieces of property owned by Frances Downey, a 39-acre tract and a 24-acre tract north of the school, are still valued as agricultural property.

That compares with a 7-acre tract owned by Buford Land Partners with frontage on the highway now valued at $468,000 after being assessed at $108,000 by the assessor’s office for this tax year.

“If the Downeys started selling lots then I would have the responsibility to value it as commercial too,” Holland said.

The Downey family has owned the parcel for years, according to Holland, and has made no effort to improve for market any of the property. But a 1.6-acre lot was sold out of the Andover property and is assessed for $139,390 on the tax roll, Holland said.

Other lots on the highway have been assessed for $87,120 for one acre, $191,660 for 2.2 acres and $3,330 for 30 acres valued as agricultural property.

Overall, Warren County’s tax roll for the year 2000 grew to $2.2 billion from last year, largely due to new industries, and will generate about $300,000 in additional revenue. The county has seen an increase of about 3 percent in property values each year for the past several years.

Supervisors have the final say on how the Andover Group’s property is assessed for tax purposes. Supervisors chose to meet in a closed session with Holland after the board meeting Monday to discuss the matter and plan to return a decision by the next board meeting.

The budgeting process for the city and county is under way this month and in September. After values are set, the two boards set rates of taxation sufficient to fund school, county and city spending plans.

Supervisors will meet again at 9 a.m., Tuesday at the Warren County Courthouse.