Assessments spark uproar in Carlton

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 April 2013 at 12:00 am
Carlton Town Board

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Carlton Town Board told nearly 100 residents on Tuesday that the board will investigate if assessments can be frozen from 2012 instead of implementing new numbers that board members say are often too high for many properties. The board includes, from left: Dana Woolston, Joyce Harris, Town Supervisor Gayle Ashbery, Robin Lake and Jim Shoemaker.

CARLTON – Angry and worried town residents packed the Town Hall to complain on Tuesday about new assessments that some residents say exceeded 25 percent.

Nearly 100 people attended the Town Board meeting, asking town officials to either bring in an outside assessor to go through the values assigned to 2,400 properties or freeze the values from 2012 for this year.

“There’s something definitely wrong here or all these people wouldn’t be here tonight,” resident Kathy Luescher told the board.

Another resident, Ken Lonnen, said the high assessments will result in bigger town, county and school tax bills for Carlton residents, forcing many out of the town.

“Where’s all this money supposed to come from?” Lonnen told the Town Board. “People don’t have the money to pay it. You’re literally killing Orleans County.”

Carlton Town Board

Photo by Tom Rivers – Carlton resident Ken Lonnen tells the Town Board that high assessments will drive many residents out of their homes.

Board members agreed there is a problem with the assessments. They said they would look at seeing if the numbers could be frozen from 2012 for this year. The board said it would update the community during a 7 p.m. meeting April 25.

“Not only do we have some that are too high, we have a ton that are too low, and we’re paying for that,” said Town Councilman Robin Lake. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it.”

Robert VanWuyckhuyse said he is the too-high category. His property on Sawyer Road went up 26 percent in value with the new assessments. All he did was add a flag pole to the property.

Some properties with improvements didn’t see their assessments go up very much or at all, VanWuyckhuyse told the Town Board.

“You have a lot of unfairness with this system that she’s got,” he said about Town Assessor Karen Adams.

She didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting, but several residents complained about the assessor. They said there were problems with the assessments in the last town-side reassessment in 2010. Nathan Lyman, an Albion attorney, represented many residents in assessment challenges then.

Carlton Town Board

Photo by Tom Rivers – Albion attorney Nathan Lyman, who has represented many residents in assessment challenges in Carlton, tells the Town Board the assessment process is flawed in Carlton.

Carlton had 188 residents file formal grievances in 2010, when most other towns in Orleans had about four assessments that went before the Board of Assessment Review, Lyman said.

“In all due respect, I think you have a problem with your assessor,” Lyman told the Town Board. “I think the system is being gamed. It’s a problem for your citizens and you need to take a look at it.”

The town-wide assessment data isn’t public yet, and residents said they want to be able to look at “comparables” that should help determine accurate assessments. Residents have been checking with each other, and they said some properties are up as high as 40 to 50 percent while others dropped 10 percent or more.

And this is in a town where the real estate values are stable, at best, resident Karen O’Brien told the board.

“We live in Carlton, Orleans County,” she said. “Don’t tell me the property has increased. Our property values are not going up. They’re going down.”