Ossipee Lake Landowners Try for Class-Action Suit

Ossipee — June 17, 2012 — The attorney representing many of the shorefront property owners on Ossipee Lake has asked the Superior Court for permission to file a class-action suit with the state’s Supreme Court.

The original case was filed last year by homeowners Roland Cherwek and James Fitzpatrick Jr. and the owners of 61 other properties who say that the Town of Ossipee’s base tax rate for their waterfront property is overassessed.

Ossipee’s Board of Selectmen has denied abatements requests filed by the homeowners. Thus, through their attorney, Amy Manzelli of Baldwin & Callen, PLLC of Concord, the petitioners sought to get the case approved as a “class-action” suit against the town.

Manzelli filed a “Petitioner’s Motion to Allow Interlocutory Appeal” to the Carroll County Superior Court on May 31. In an earlier ruling, Judge Steven Houran had declined permission for the parties to bring a class-action lawsuit against the town and declined a subsequent motion to reconsider the ruling.

The plaintiffs say that the land base shorefront property values are overassessed in comparison to other parts of Center Ossipee and that the calculations used to figure the rate do not include all the property sales transactions. Those sales would include what the assessor deemed as “distressed” sales — a sale in the event of divorce or to settle an estate of a deceased owner.

The town’s contract tax assessor, David Wiley, used a base land tax rate for waterfront properties in the area at $400,000 per every first six-tenths of an acre. The proposed lawsuit does not challenge other parts of assessing value, such as the value of buildings, improvements or adjustments for the character of the land, according to court documents.

In the appeal motion, Manzoni states that the plaintiffs, including those not separately named, have one thing in common — they share a similar land-value rate on which their taxes are based.

“All real property is unique. However, the uniqueness of real property does not preclude a class action in this real estate tax abatement matter. Petitioners challenge only the base land rate, a figure that is identical, not unique, for all proposed class members. If the proposed class members prevail, the figure will be lowered, but will remain identical for all the proposed class members. Thus, the trial court’s grant of the town’s motion to disallow class certification should be corrected,” stated Manzelli in the interlocutory appeal to the court.

Manzelli said it was difficult to predict when Judge Houran would render a decision in this case, but that the Town of Ossipee, through its counsel, Richard Sager of Sager & Haskell, has indicated it would not object to the motion.

“The time in which the court would render a decision varies widely,” she said.


  1. Jim Shuff 12 years ago June 18, 2012

    Waterfront property has been taxed at a higher rate generally due to the fact that it will sell for a higher price! The house is supposed to taxed the same whether it is on shorefront land or elsewhere in a town. This has been the case since my family bought our camp in Alton Bay in 1951. The question is, ” Would any of these people sell their homes for less than what it is assessed at!” If so, and a certified appraiser shows the property to worth less, than there is an argument. Unfortunately real estate prices went crazy around 2000 and the real estate industry and banks made sales that are now causing the current crash in all areas. I find it very unfortunate for elderly owners that have owned their property for many years and, now on a limited retirement, are having difficulties due to the cost of their taxes.

  2. R Cherwek 12 years ago June 18, 2012

    By law, property assessments are to be based on actual sales. From 2005 to 2010 the average sale price of lake front property on Ossipee Lake dropped 25 %. In the 2010 Center Ossipee town reassessment of non lake front property dropped 23 % while the lake front assessments increased 3 %. Lake front property is only 10 % of the total town property assessments yet generates 50 % of the total tax income.

    It is interesting to note that the town of Freedom, because of the drop in property sales prices, reassessed all the property one year earlier than required with an average decrease in assessments of $100,000 per property. Same lake, same view, but a difference in a reasonable town verses a non law abiding recalcitrant town.

  3. Freedom Resident 12 years ago June 19, 2012

    Remember that the bills still have to be paid. When you rely upon property taxes to fund your towns, you have 2 choices. High property values and a low tax rate or low property values and a high tax rate. Either way we are going to pay. The real problem is the way the towns are funded. The screwing here is the way the shorefront owners are artifically assessed for their property. Shifting the burden to one group of people is unfair and should be overturned by the courts. Freedom reduced the tax burden to the non shorefront owners including all the town officials while raising the value of the shorefront owners over 60% a while back. Thats B.S.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *