The Roman Villa restaurant on Duanesburg Road doesn’t exist.
Neither do nearly all of the improvements at the Maple Ridge Ski Area, including its lodge and lifts off Mariaville Road. Or at least that is what the town’s property tax roll reflects, Rotterdam Assessor Craig Surprise has discovered since taking office in January.
He also found National Grid pays taxes on all of the improvements built on its nearly 700 acres in Rotterdam, but has never been assessed for the actual value of the land. Neither has CSX Corp. for the property beneath their miles of rail lines.
“And this is nothing,” Surprise said, leafing through an inch-thick folder of errors he’s uncovered so far.
In response to these errors, members of the Town Board Wednesday unanimously agreed to hire a private consultant to analyze the roll and determine if GAR Associates lived up to their contract during the town revaluation. Rotterdam will pay up to $30,000 to the Buffalo-based Emminger, Hyatt, Newton & Pigeon Inc., Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants, to review the work completed by GAR in 2007.
Supervisor Steve Tommasone said, “Our town desires to ensure the accuracy of the services provided during the town revaluation,” in a short statement during the board’s meeting.
Town officials were hesitant to discuss the matter further, citing recent correspondence with GAR. Town Attorney Gerard Parisi said the Amherst-based appraisal firm indicated that any statements made against GAR’s services during the revaluation could be met with legal action.
“They advised us that any negative or derogatory comments about their services could result in litigation against the parties making these statements,” he said following the meeting.
The $752,000 revaluation project was launched in 2005, after the town’s equalization rate dropped to 2.95 percent. Proponents of the project argued inequities in the roll caused imbalances in the tax burden and left Rotterdam open to lawsuits from large commercial property owners.
After the town’s impact statements were mailed in March 2007, both GAR officials and then-Assessor John Macejka Jr. claimed the revaluation hadn’t stirred much ire among residents; roughly 1,500 of the town’s 13,000 property owners informally contested their values, they said.
Macejka later indicated the grievance process was busier than normal but nowhere near as busy as he had anticipated.
But when school taxes came due in September, far more residents turned out to argue their property values, claiming GAR’s impact notices were flawed. The company replied to these concerns by stressing that residents were warned of the inaccuracy of the “snapshot in time” calculation, especially because the town adopted a dual tax rate system for commercial and residential properties.
GAR is now conducting revaluations in both Niskayuna and Malta in Saratoga County. Officials from the company could not be reached late Wednesday evening.
Parisi said the town simply wants to resolve the inequities and errors the assessor has discovered since taking office, and to ensure the accuracy of GAR’s work. He said the company has been alerted to the errors.
“We’re seeking resolution of these issues,” he said.
CLARIFICATION — The Roman Villa restaurant, owned by Peter Guiderelli, is leased on property owned by the Galesi Group off Duanesburg Road. Guiderelli said he pays rent and taxes on the property to Galesi. However, the restaurant is not included on the town’s property tax card for the Rotterdam Corporate Park, the complex on which it is located.
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