Ossipee – February 10, 2010 — The first applications for tax relief are expected to be filed this month in response to the state’s controversial claim that it owns Ossipee Lake’s shorefront property up to 410 ft. above sea level.
Lake resident John Hardie said today he will file for an abatement for his home on Hodgson Shore. Hardie also said Westward Shores Campground, where he works, will file a similar appeal.
Both properties are in Ossipee, and the campground is one of the town’s biggest taxpayers.
Hardie said he will apply to the state’s Board of Tax and Land Appeals, which has the power to grant tax abatements under NH RSA 76:16-a. One or the provisions of the RSA allows claims to be made if a taxpayer believes his property’s assessed value exceeds its market value. In a phone interview, Hardie said that was the provision of the RSA that would be the basis of his claim.
“If the state owns part of my property, then it’s worth less than the current assessed value,” he said, adding that part of Westward Shores Campground is also under the 410 ft. benchmark.
Hardie and Westward Shores are two of many individuals and businesses in Ossipee and Freedom that are affected by what is being called the “410 Rule.”
By law, the state owns its lakes, the land beneath them and the surrounding shorefront property up to the “natural mean high water mark.” State officials say the high water benchmark for Ossipee Lake is 410 ft. above sea level, which is approximately three feet higher than the lake’s summer level.
At that level, many individuals and businesses who thought they had clear title to their property now find that the state legally owns part of it, and in some cases all of it.
Ossipee Lake Alliance and local elected officials convened a meeting of state officials in December at which representatives from DES and the Office of the State Attorney General confirmed the state’s land claim and the legal basis for it. But the officials could not say when the benchmark was set, who set it or what information was used to set it.
At the December meeting, DES official Rene Pelletier said the state would consider changing the number if local officials provided evidence that it was incorrect. State Representative Mark McConkey and Ossipee Selectman Harry Merrow met with the same officials two weeks ago to present evidence gathered to date, but did not come away with an agreement for a change.
DES did, however, agree to lower the state’s reference mark for permitting purposes to 407.25 ft. That means the agency will, in essence, consider approving private projects on state-owned property instead of automatically denying them.
It was DES’ denial of dredge and fill applications submitted by Westward Shores Campground and Ossipee Bluffs Association last year that led to the realization that the state’s claim on shorefront property was much greater than previously thought.
In messages to Ossipee Lake Alliance and in online comments, some residents say the 410 Rule has been applied inconsistently on the lake, which may be the reason it has not previously become a public issue. Over the years, they say, some septic systems and shorefront walls below 410 ft. have been approved and some have been denied.
Lake resident Hardie said DES approved an above-ground gas storage tank at Westward Shores around 2003 or 2004 on property that the state now claims it owns.
“That presents an interesting liability question,” he commented.
Tax Appeal Process
Comments posted by individuals on Ossipee Lake Alliance’s website have speculated about applying for tax abatements based on the 410 Rule, but Hardie is the first to state publicly he and his employer intend to do so.
NH RSA 76:16-a requires that abatement applications be made before March 1, and there is a required non-refundable $65 application fee.
The taxpayer must show there is “good cause” for the abatement, and the applicant has the burden of proof for showing there is a discrepancy between a property’s assessed value and its market value. That’s generally accomplished by obtaining a professional opinion by an attorney or a realtor, according to those with knowledge of the process.
Information on the law and the application itself can be viewed by clicking here.
More tax abatement requests may serve to bring this legal issue to a more timely longer term resolution but that remains to be seen. It wouldn’t surprise me if this issue evidently ends up in a court.
Might an easement between 410 and 407 feet universally granted to lakefront property deeds help avoid some title complications?
if I have paid taxes for the last twelve + years and it is not mine I want all of it back with intress
I agree with Don’s comments above. I would like to better understand “good cause” as referenced above and why the burden falls upon the taxpayer when the state has a clearly defined position on this matter. Furthermore, if this holds water and the ownership of the property is defined by the state’s 410 foot benchmark why should we be compelled to file an abatement to ask for relief of taxes we should have never paid in the first place?
Thanks to the Alliance for their role in driving the message — I would pose the question, can more be done by the Alliance to help secure fair and equitable treatment for those property owners that are impacted.
Gee, John Jardy and Charlie smith (dba bankrupt Wayward Shores) are trying to find an angle to not pay a portion of the property taxes they owe! But I will look at the bright side of this double edged sword….if they want to renege on a potion of beachfront adjacent to the Lake then I will gladly set up camp this summer on these portions of waterfront property that Hardy & Smith now say are State property!. Hey Charlie, this means I can tie up my boat to the docks down at Wayward Shores, since this would also be “State property” under this scheme you and John are trying to hatch! Maybe you gentlemen should worry a little bit more about paying your bills, and spend a little less time in scheming how to circumvent your personal responsibilities!
Very interesting perspective! “trying to find an angle to not pay a portion of the property taxes they owe!” …in other words you are in favor of paying taxes on property you do not own. if that’ s the case why stop at the 410 ft level why not raise the level to 500 ft and see how many more citizens can pay taxes on land owned by the state…if the level gets raised high enough it may even reach your property, then, you could get a real good taste of big government control.
I’m not in favor of avoiding ones financial responsibilities but in this case the state is abusing its authority…and the state is already sticking it to all the lake front owners with their inappropriately assessed property values that don’t remotely reflect market conditions. So in addition to the assessed property value screw job we learn that we are also overpaying on property we never owned…on what planet is that fair????
Let me see if I have this right. Hardy & Smith have enjoyed the exclusive use of their respective properties for years, with Smith profiting from from his property. Now they want to use a loophole to not pay their fair share? Remember, if they get abatements town spending doesn’t go down, other property owners will find their taxes going up to support Hardy & Smith! And people wonder why they’ve bankrupted the campground!
I see…let’s not be concerned about the gov inability or desire to control it’s spending and costs…let’s not worry about the blatant waste of tax payer money. let’s not even be concerned with the gov. arrogance when it comes to obtaining income from the tax payers. instead let’s focus on a couple of schnooks who couldn’t manage a pidding camp ground. if the general public could focus on the real issues rather than being blinded by the trivial antics of our day the country would be much better off…