Most of the 471 waterfront property owners in the Town of Brome Lake were shocked by the huge increases in the municipal assessment of their properties when they received their triennial assessment notice last fall, followed by their municipal tax bill.
It should be emphasized that these increases apply to ALL 471 waterfront properties, not just large ones.
The average increase in assessment between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2017 for waterfront properties was 25.8 percent, with several properties seeing increases of 100 percent or more. By contrast, the average increase for the remaining 86 percent of TBL properties was 5.2 percent. For the new roll, the assessor was required to determine fair market value as at July 1, 2017, and cannot consider sales since that date.
It is primarily the value of waterfront land, not buildings, that has allegedly increased so dramatically. Although non-waterfront land is assessed largely on the basis of its total area and road frontage, waterfront land is apparently being assessed mainly on the basis of the length of its water frontage, regardless of the quality of the frontage (vegetation, rocks, sandy beach or swamp). No physical inspection was carried out by the assessor. Several owners have appealed their new assessments, on the basis that such unprecedented increases are unjustifiable, arbitrary and discriminatory. But the assessor is both judge and jury in the first instance.
The assessor is implausibly claiming that between 2014 and 2017, most waterfront land doubled in value per metre of water frontage. There may have been some high outlier sales, but “one sale does not make a market” is a basic principle.
The new assessment roll will be in effect for 2019, 2020 and 2021. It also forms the basis for school taxes for these three years.
Peter White Knowlton