Local News

December 29, 2012

Lewis Family Farm challenges property-tax increase



Essex Town Supervisor Sharon Boisen would not discuss the assessment issue.

“When it comes to litigation, it is not something we would discuss in a public meeting,” she said, directing questions to McNamera, a partner at Hiscock & Barclay in Buffalo.

“It is pending litigation, and I don’t have any comment either,” McNamera said when asked about the town’s position on the Article 7 case.

“The parties are in discussions. The case is pending before Judge (Richard) Meyer.”

Boisen said the town has spent $61,544 year-to-date on the tax litigation.

Baillie asserts the farm will pursue a legal decision.

“The town could not explain what sales they used to come up with the $6 million number in the first place,” she said.

“And there are a couple of legal issues that do deserve to be determined in front of a judge. The first seeks a clarification in real-property tax statutes that address 10-year exemptions on structures and permanent exemptions. 

“‘Permanent’ talks about structures ‘permanently affixed’ that are designed to ‘preserve and store forage in edible condition,’ including commodity sheds and manure storage facilities,” Baillie said.

“Ten-year (exemptions) are ‘structures and buildings and portions thereof’ used exclusively for storage of agricultural commodities for sale. There is potential overlap. I think it is important because these structures are being taxed all over the state. The problem I think you have is there are structures that have more than one use.”

And, she said, there is also no definition in tax law of “commodity.”

“If we were selling our hay, this might be a different issue,” Baillie said.

The farm is seeking to solve the taxation equation in a manner extending beyond the three-year protection offered to an assessment after litigation.

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