County mulls tax situation on old Confederate Ridge complex

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Property tax liability at the former Confederate Ridge Apartments is under review by the Warren County Board of Supervisors by the request of its new ownership.

The 160-unit complex off U.S. 61 North was partially condemned in January after building inspectors with the City of Vicksburg found code violations in three units bad enough to render them unfit for human inhabitation. The violations included electric system problems, leaky roofs and a lack of heat in some of the buildings. The building was foreclosed on in February 2013.

Eddie Grosse, a Florida developer who told supervisors he purchased the apartments in August, said the unit was appraised too high in 2013. Supervisors took the request under advisement despite the deadline — August 2 — being long passed. Closing conditions and other sale documents were handed over for supervisors’ inspection.

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Grosse, accompanied by Vicksburg attorney Wren Way, said the apartments, to be renamed Whispering Woods, are appraised several times more than what he paid for it.

“We were assessed at $3.5 million; we paid probably less than a third of that for them,” Grosse said, adding an $8,700 assessment for personal property was too high because they had nothing left from the previous ownership “except a computer and a desk.”

Officials said Grosse had approached county officials through the fall and early this year seeking a tax break. When supervisors and Tax Assessor Angela Brown reminded him the deadline had passed, he informed them he had no problem obtaining a retroactive property tax break in Hattiesburg in the recent past.

“He didn’t have an objection in writing,” Brown told supervisors from the public seating area during Grosse and Way’s turn in front of supervisors, which came at the end of the board’s regular meeting Tuesday. The pair did not appear on the printed agenda for the session, but were afforded time at the podium after the two men entered the meeting a short time after the meeting began. Board attorney Marcie Southerland disputed Grosse’s account to supervisors that the two spoke not long after advised him he could still appeal after the deadline.

“You spoke with me three, four weeks ago,” Southerland said. “It’s the one and only time you spoke to me. I told you need to go on and get an attorney. Evidently, you’ve done that.”

The complex had sold to Wachovia Bank Commercial Mortgage for $2.58 million at foreclosure. The apartment complex, Warren County’s largest, was built in 1976 and 15 of the complex’s 19 buildings are inside Vicksburg’s city limits, according to Warren County land records.

State law allows taxpayers to appeal assessed values on properties during a 30-day period after supervisors equalize tax rolls for the upcoming year.

Eighteen property owners formally protested Warren County property tax assessments for 2013 by last summer’s deadline. Supervisors left values alone on 10 of the 18 properties, a list that was a mix of residential and commercial structures, including four from Vicksburg casinos.

On the agenda

Meeting Tuesday, the Warren County Board of Supervisors:

• Accepted 369 homestead applications for 2013 from the chancery clerk’s office.

It was unclear whether the figure included any from taxpayers 65 or older. Tax Assessor Angela Brown said documents had been sent to Chancery Clerk Donna Farris Hardy’s office to that effect. Hardy told supervisors she had not received any.

• Authorized a $1,286.25 check to Larry Latham for services rendered for mediating the county’s civil case involving Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree. The case has gone back to trial in Hinds County in April.

• Ratified lifting a burn ban enacted Feb. 7.

• Took under advisement a bid from Empire Truck Sales for a 2015 tandem dump truck for the Road Department.

• Announced no action taken after a closed session called under the personnel matter exception in Mississippi Open Meetings law. Supervisors said the matter concerned the fire coordinator.