July 12, 1999
Board of Tax Appeals
910 5th Ave. SE
P.O. Box 40915
Olympia, WA 98504-0915
Subject: - Docket No. 54030 and 54031
Thank you for the opportunity to appeal the November 17, 1998 decisions of the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization.
We take the statement in your May 21 letter, "This Board considers evidence which estimates a market value for the subject property based on analysis of comparable sales (when available) to be most persuasive", quite literally and will attempt to illustrate our concerns with the data used by the Grays Harbor County Assessor and supported by the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization.
Briefly this is the history of the appeal:
1. - 7/1/1998 - I appealed the Grays Harbor County Assessor assessments through the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization by letter (you have a copy).
2. - 8/17/1998 - I provided the county with a well documented letter (you have a copy) on August 17 (by personal delivery to the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization ). I appeared for the scheduled hearing and brought another letter (you have a copy) on August 25. The Grays Harbor County Assessor staff was not prepared. The hearing was rescheduled.
3. - 10/13/1998 - The Grays Harbor Board of Equalization hearing was held. At that time I received my first copy of the Grays Harbor County Assessor comparables. Later that day I sent Grays Harbor Board of Equalization a facsimile letter (you have a copy) concerning erroneous land values and complaints about the land value comparables.
- On October 15, 1998 I sent the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization another facsimile letter (you have a copy) concerning comparables.
4. - 11/17/1998 - A The Grays Harbor Board of Equalization determined (84-98) that "the petitioner has proven the property was impacted by flooding" and "the Assessor's office has already compensated for the impact". In their own words this compensation is accomplished "by not picking up the value of the flood wall".
- - - B The Grays Harbor Board of Equalization also determined (83-98 through 87-98) land values and stated "This is the fair value as shown through comparable sales". (Note: the reason for including these five appeals in this letter deals with selection of comparables)
In our two Notices of Appeal to the State Board of Tax Appeals we stated:
5. - 83-98 "The assessor has failed to reduce building value to compensate for impact of Feb. 1996 flood on market value. For assessment year 1993 the value was set at $35,000 and 5 years later is still carried at 91% of original value."
6. - 84-98 "The assessor has not compensated for the impact of the Feb. 1996 flood on market value."
In the matter of our homes value (petition 84-98) our issues are:
We take exception that the Grays Harbor County Assessor (item 4 A above) "has already compensated for the (flooding) impact".
In our letter of August 25, 1998 we stated:
- "The assessor's office has claimed that the State Board of Tax Appeal decision did forever adjust the property for flooding."
We cannot find any statement or sentence in the Board of Tax Appeals March 27, 1996 Final Decision (Docket No. 46741) that makes a permanent, and perpetually limited flood adjustment to the value of the home.
Further we take exception that the Grays Harbor County Assessor (item 4 A above) "by not picking up the value of the flood wall" would hold the assessed value of our home at ransom because we took efforts to provide some degree of protection from another disastrous flood.
In our letter of August 25, 1998 we stated:
- "The assessor's office has claimed that they could have increased the property value by the cost of the flood wall. The flood wall is not an improvement. It is a necessity to protect human life. To date the flood wall has not been tested, so no one knows if it will work. Calling the flood wall an improvement is comparable to claiming an amputee's claw is better than a hand."
In 1996 we had one flood event that put 2.5 feet of standing water inside our house and wiped out our residence, roads, fences, track, and arena flooring. We lost thousands of dollars in personal items, we had to borrow money, secure a second and a third mortgage - just to survive and repair and protect our home. Our flood wall is not an improvement, it is a defense against future flooding . The photos included with our letter of August 17, 1998 show the complexity and complications this flood wall has added to our lives. In addition to living with the fear of another flood, we have lost the use of our circle driveway, we have lost the use of our front door, and during the winter we have no emergency exits other than through the front of the garage.
The magnitude and scope of that flooding is shown in the photo included with this letter. That photo shows lands east of Oakville and extends on into Thurston County.
- In 1996 there was one flood event.
- In 1997-1998 there was one flood event (not a big as 1996) (see 1997-1998 chart)
- In 1998-1999 there were 9 (nine) flood events that flooded our driveway and prevented access to and from our home by vehicle. (see 1998-1999 chart)
We must point out that this is not the first flood that has damaged this property. The house suffered flood damage in the 1990 flood. The Grays Harbor County Assessor did battle with us over the assessed valuations related to that flood event and we have already appeared before the State Board of Tax Appeal (see Board of Tax Appeals March 27, 1996 Final Decision (Docket No. 46741)).
Further we take exception that the Grays Harbor County Assessor apparently used comparable sales that are not comparable.
The Grays Harbor Board of Equalization did not, in their order, dated November 17, 1998 (4 A above) use any comparables (as provided by the Grays Harbor County Assessor on 10/13/1998) in their decision process. However the Grays Harbor County Assessor did document 'comparables. In the event Grays Harbor County Assessor attempts to use comparables in this hearing at the state level we dispute the use of these comparables as follows:
- Comparable 1 is at least one half mile east of us (the Grays Harbor County Assessor says it is "next to subject property") It was built in 1915. Smaller than this house the Grays Harbor County Assessor make no adjustment for age, condition or depreciation. At the same time the Grays Harbor County Assessor retains our high value and claims ours is protected by a flood wall - and comparable 1 is not protected and it has flooded. This home and outbuildings are not of the same quality construction or appearance as the subject property.
- Comparable 2 is at least one mile west of us, on the north side of the river. It has never had flood water in it. It was built in 1926 - and has been given equal value with ours in terms of age and depreciation. This home and barn is not of the same quality construction or appearance as the subject property.
- Comparable 3 is close to a mile east of us (the Grays Harbor County Assessor says "this comp is located across the street from the subject: ). It has never had flood waters in it . In 1994/1995 it was used as a comparable against us. At that time the Grays Harbor County Assessor had significantly different values for age and depreciation (this year the Grays Harbor County Assessor had none). Like the others the construction and quality of the home and buildings is not of the same quality or appearance as the subject property.
- Comparable 4 is one half mile east of us (the Grays Harbor County Assessor says it is "in front of the subject property") . This house did not exist during the 1996 flood . Therefore it has never been subjected to flooding. It does not appear to be occupied.
Further we submit that real estate values have been significantly impacted by flooding. As evidence of this we have included a newspaper article, Jan 23, 1999 - which states (in part) "Slow sales can be traced to 1996 flood, says real estate agent" and "One lovely little house that should have sold for more than $70,000 recently went for $58,000, largely because it was flooded in 1996, Elder said" (By the way the Aberdeen papers don't deliver in Oakville, so we depend upon the Chronicle for flooding, business, real estate and regional news.)
While it appears that we are not able to contest land values (item 4 B above) at this hearing , we wish to make note of the inconsistent manner in which the Grays Harbor County Assessor applies the use of comparables.
The Grays Harbor Board of Equalization found in the favor of the Grays Harbor County Assessor when it came to land values. The Grays Harbor County Assessor used land comparables which are totally unrelated to the improvement comparables . This selective choice of properties is incomprehensible. Some of the lands (photo copy of map included) that the Grays Harbor County Assessor used are properties located on upland slopes, all of them are at least 4 miles west of this floodplain, and one of them is 7 miles away and 2 of them are on the south side of the Chehalis River - while our properties are on the Black River and the north side of the Chehalis River - we are caught between two flooding river s.
To further complicate this land value issue - our lands our surrounded by similar properties. However these properties (all rural acreage) have market values of $1,500, $2,000, $5,500, $1,600 and $2,340 per acre. It may be outside the scope of this appeal, but hopefully the State Tax Appeal Board will cause a review of these assessment practices and attempt to bring some order to a very chaotic method of determining rural, flood plain, agriculture land values
In the matter of the value of the improvement (petition 83-98)
In the response from the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization (item 4 B above) no statement was made relative to the improvements. The improvements were part of our initial appeal. We feel the Grays Harbor Board of Equalization erred in this determination and that the improvement value had to be addressed in their finding. Instead they only addressed the value of the land.
This facility was permitted and built in 1991 at a total complete cost of $34,870, but went on the tax rolls as $46,080.
We appealed the value and in September of 1994 the value was reduced to $35,000
It was carried by the Grays Harbor County Assessor at a value of $35,000 in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998. The value for 1999 is $31,680. Even the simplest of depreciation schedules would place the value of a 20 year ag building at 60% to 65% of original cost - not the 90.5% value that the Grays Harbor County Assessor has determined.
This facility is in the same flood plain, and has had over 2 feet of water in it. The walls show the high water mark and have suffered from the standing water. The flooring, which is mandatory for horse use, was washed out and away by the flood. All that is left is a hard pan, clay floor, which is totally unsuitable for arena use.
In closing our request is that depreciation (straight line, 10 year to include wall damage and flooring loss) is deducted from the arena value and the value for the house be decreased 15%.
Thank you for the opportunity to present our case,
Dave Palmer - - - - - Ellen Palmer
Attachments with this letter:
Large photo of east Grays Harbor County and Thurston County, Feb. 1996 flood, which identifies the home comparables used by the Grays Harbor County Assessor.
1997-1998 Flood Period Graph
1998-1999 Flood Period Graph
It's a buyers market, 1/23/1999, Centralia Chronicle
Photo copy of map from Capitol State Forest Map, which identifies the land comparables used by the Grays Harbor County Assessor.
Documentation previously submitted and considered a part of this appeal process:
October 15, 1998 Fax to Grays Harbor Board of Equalization, dealing with Assessor comparables
October 13, 1998 Fax to Grays Harbor Board of Equalization, dealing with Assessor's testimony, comparables, restoration of flood damages, depreciation.
August 25, 1998 Letter to Grays Harbor Board of Equalization, dealing property value, cost of flood wall, State Board of Tax Appeals 1990 decision and concerns from the July 1, 1998 letter
August 17, 1998 Letter to Grays Harbor Board of Equalization with the following attachments:
- Findings of the State Board of Tax Appeals, March 1996, 5 pages
A - RCW 64.06.050 dealing with real estate disclosure statement, 1 page
B - E - RCW 64.06.020 Seller's duty, disclosure statement, 4 pages
F - 2/12/96 letter to White House, Governor, FEMA and others, assistance and mitigation
G - 2/15/96 letter from Senator Swecker, relative to county policies and permits
H,I - 4/12/96 letter to Darlena Williams, mitigation request, 2 pages
J - 5/9/96 letter from Wa. Emergency Management Division, permits and mitigation
K - 6/12/96 house mitigation bid from Rainier Movers
L,M - 8/27/96 request to Darlena Williams for mitigation assistance, 2 pages
N - 10/2/96 quotation for flood wall
O - 10/16/96 letter to House, Senate, State and Federal, mitigation request
P - 11/20/96 letter from Senator Murray, about mitigation
Q - 12/6/96 letter from Senator Snyder, about mitigation
R - 11/25/96 FEMA letter (partial) about flood zones and mitigation
S - 1/28/97 US SBA loan document
T - 8/17/82 copy of Grays Harbor permit citing floodproofed building
- Pictures and description of flood damage and mitigation required, 19 pages, starting with numbers 25 and 26, then 1 - 24, and 27 - 38, for a total of 19 pages.
- Overhead view of the real property in question, showing only the total 44 acres during the summer of 1990.
- A 1:12,000 view of sections 34, 35, 36 (and others) taken from Wa. Dept. of Transportation aerial mapping during a normal period.
- A 1:12,000 view of the same area on 2/9/96 showing the reach and extent of the flood waters in this part of eastern Grays Harbor county.
July 1, 1998 Letter to Grays Harbor Board of Equalization, with the following attachments:
- A summary of appeals, August 1995
- State Board of Tax Appeals Final Decision, Docket 46741
- Five (5) Taxpayers Petitions for Palmer properties, 1998
- Table A - Analysis of Palmer Open Space and Market Value Increases
- Chart B All land, market value per acre
- Chart C Open Space Current Use Value Comparison
- Chart D Open Space Market Value Comparison
- Chart E Building Assessed Values
- Map F Thurston County property locations
- List G - Grays Harbor and Thurston County parcel numbers
This page created and maintained by Dave Palmer