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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Westport Reval Snapshot: $oundview Drive Residents Take Hit

They might as well change the street signs from Soundview Drive to $oundview Drive. soundviewsign.jpg

The picturesque street with to-die-for views along Westport’s Compo Beach—to the surprise of few—is one of the hardest hit by the new 2003 property assessments. soundview01260401.jpg Residents of Soundview Drive are seeing some of the largest assessment increases. (CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTO) WestportNow.com photo

Of the 14 homes on the street, the largest valuation increase was 219 percent—No. 19, which was given a $2.32 million market value.

The smallest was 137 percent—No. 25, which was given a $2.8 million market value.

The increases occurred in the four years since the last property assessment.

For the owner of No. 19, that’s equivalent to a 54.75 percent annual jump. For No. 25, a relatively paltry 34.25 percent annual increase.

This means based on the 2003 tax rates, taxes would increase by $12,830 to $23,061, or 80 percent, for No. 19 and by $11,673 to $27,804, or 138 percent, for No. 25.

And neither home was the most valued among those on Soundview Drive. That honor went to No. 39 with a $3.38 million market value.

Its assessed value increased 192 percent, translating to a more than doubling in taxes on 2003 rates—up $18,618 to $36,167.

Note—some of these Soundview Drive homes may have undergone alterations or renovations since the last assessment which may have contributed to their valuation increase.

The new assessment list does not indicate which homes had building activity that affected their value.

A former member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) who lives in the Compo Beach area has crunched numbers on the reval and doesn’t like what he found.

While acknowledging that homes closer to the water are more valuable, George Franciscovich of Burnham Hill said there is a flaw in the way the assessment was carried out.

“It appears that the methodology of this assessment undervalues the house and ancillary structures on a lot and overvalues the land—meaning if you put up the big house you pay proportionally less,” he told WestportNow.

For Franciscovich, the new assessment resulted in an almost 94 percent jump in his home’s assessed value.

“I can tell you the value of my house has not doubled since 1999,” he wrote in a letter to local newspapers.

“In fact, the value of the house itself has probably gone down since, in these days of McMansions sprouting on postage-size lots, my 1950s vintage split level is nothing but bulldozer bait. 

“The entire value of my property is in the lot—minus the cost to actually knock the house down.”

Franciscovich told WestportNow: “I can pay the increase in taxes, but I think this will put an additional burden on those with smaller houses—just the kind of people I think we want to keep around town.”

He said at the very least, he favored the RTM opting for a phase-in of the revaluation over four years, which it can do under state law.
While agreeing with First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell that implementing a phase-in would be unfair to those entitled to a reduction, Franciscovich said there is a larger consideration.

“The numbers and the methodology are not right so implementing the increase would be unfair because it will result in a discriminatory burden being put on those with less expensive and smaller homes,” he said.

“In other words, the McMansions win.”

The RTM will take up the 2003 property assessments as an informational item at its Feb. 3 meeting.

Editor’s note: The editor of WestportNow also serves as RTM Moderator.


Posted 01/27/04 at 04:43 AM  Permalink


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now with TO-DIE-FOR-TAXE$...
who hired, supervised, and approved this skewed evaluation?
anybody know?

Posted by tom feeley on January 27, 2004 at 03:52 PM | #

This is an example of a street that has been “overvalued” by our new assessment. This assessment is UNFAIR because it fails to truly value all properties in town. It overvalues property near the water and undervalues new construction not located near the water. The result is an UNFAIR SHIFTING OF THE TAX BURDEN to those who were overassessed or fairly assessed and away from those that were underassessed, some by as much as a million dollars!

Posted by Mike Laux on January 27, 2004 at 03:52 PM | #

One thing to remember - in the last reval, beach area properties were undervalued (research I did at the time showed that they were given “market values” of 80% of actual sales prices within the year, while other neighborhoods were given values closer to 95%) so the increases look greater this time - and more in line with actual recent sales.  Plus the beach has had the benefit of lower relative taxes over the past 4 years.

Posted by skeptic on January 27, 2004 at 07:50 PM | #

Another way to measure property values is to assess the building portion at a higher percentage than the land, instead of assessing both equally at 70% of market value.  That way the tax structure reflects that some of the neighbors in the same neighborhood have more modest houses and shifts the burden from them, many of whom are long-term residents who could probably least afford the increase.
It’s sort of a progressive assessment,in a way.
It might or might not discourage building to the max on a given lot. 
It seems ironic that taxes, which are philosophically based on pooling resources to help the aggregate, should drive some of those out of the group.  I know this happens, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a tax formula that minimizes it?

Posted by Judy Starr on January 28, 2004 at 02:08 AM | #

Comment to skeptic:
I purchased my “beach area” property in August of 1998 and got a revaluation at the time of “exactly” what I paid for it, so I would not say that it was “undervalued” at that time.

Posted by Mike Laux on January 28, 2004 at 08:54 PM | #

Note to Mr. Laux - We sold a “beach area” property just before the reval in 1999 - it somehow was given a value of 90% of the purchase price, despite improvements made by the purchaser before the reval date.  The house we purchased in another neighborhood was given a value of 99% of the purchase price.  Hence I did the study looking at all beach area sales vs reval and compared them with other neighborhoods - the preponderance of evidence was for values below sales prices in the beach area(s) in the last reval, unlike other neighborhoods - sounds like you were an exception.

Posted by skeptic on January 29, 2004 at 02:16 PM | #

Note to skeptic-
Your research must have missed 33 Soundview which sold for $1,610,000 in 8/97 and was assessed at $1,928,571 in the last assessment. Or what about 39 Soundview which sold for $1,250,00 in 9/97 and was assessed for $1,247,143. Neither one seems like an 80% assessment to me.
On the other side of the coin, that is “not in a beach area”, how about 253 Bayberry which sold for $950,000 in 1999, and was assessed at $750,000 in the last assessment, upped to $1,766,714 when the house on the property was torn down and a new 5500 square foot house put in it’s place (construction cost $1,650,000?). Total cost $ 2,600,000. Now assessed at $1,955,714. This does not seem like a 99% appraisal to me.

Posted by Mike Laux on January 29, 2004 at 03:43 PM | #

I would have to pull out my old files, but I concentrated on the non-waterfront, beach area properties (both Compo and Saugatuck).  As you know, one can always find specific examples that do not conform to a larger statistical analysis - thats why we are having to spend time meeting with Ryan Associates and BAA.

Posted by skeptic on January 29, 2004 at 04:47 PM | #


i just wish that the job that they did had been more fair all the way around

Posted by Mike Laux on January 29, 2004 at 05:23 PM | #