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.