Landowners Say View Tax Will Destroy NH Way of Life

Concord — March 14, 2007 — Critics warned yesterday that continuing to include the “view tax” component in property assessments will fragment the state and destroy its rural character.

Orford tree farmer Tom Thomson said the tax will force farmers to sell off their land in small parcels.

“If you push us landowners off the edge, it’s going to be fragmented,” he told the House Municipal and County Government Committee. “That’s not a threat. That’s a promise.”

Thomson urged the committee to back legislation barring officials from including the value of a property’s view in its appraisal. Thomson and others told the committee putting a value on a view is too subjective. The state has no definition of how to assess a view, he said.

“You’re paying a tax on something you don’t own and have no control over,” said Rick Samson of Stewartstown. “We’re being taxed on something that’s arbitrary.”

Samson said a home with a view of Lake Francis out one window was assigned an assessment for the lake view, but not given a discount for the view of a dump out another window.

But Judy Silva of the New Hampshire Municipal Association said views have been included in assessments for a long time. She said if lawmakers forbid assessors from including the view, owners of properties with views will pay less than market value while those without views will pay 100 percent of market value. She said that would shift the tax burden onto those without views.

“You don’t need a definition of view,” she said. “You don’t have a definition of waterfront.”

State officials and assessors say beautiful views, like prime locations, have always been part of a home’s intrinsic value. The only change is that many rural views are now worth more, as land values skyrocket and more people from wealthier communities are retiring in New Hampshire.

But controversy erupted in 2005 after assessing firms doing townwide property revaluations began assigning a separate value to beautiful views, either as a dollar amount or a multiplier applied to the basic value of the land and property. The practice is similar to a long-standing approach of breaking out the value of waterfront location.

Silva said assigning a dollar amount was intended to provide property owners with more information, not reflect a change in practice.

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