OSSIPEE — Monday’s Ossipee selectmen’s meeting attracted 80 people to come listen to the town’s contracted assessor try to explain why he dramatically increased property values and in particular two aviation-themed communities.
One man stormed out during the meeting.
Soaring Heights and Windsock Villages residents fear their tax bills will go up dramatically or disproportionately with other areas of town based on the preliminary assessments that they have been given in September.
The two private aviation communities in West Ossipee share a 4,000-foot turf runway (NH 69) between the two developments, with Windsock containing approximately 115 homes and Soaring Heights about 27 homes.
Many residents of both developments came before selectmen last week to question assessments made by town-contracted Granite Hill Municipal Services of Concord.
Last week, residents told selectmen that company president Todd Haywood told them that assessments in the town went up by 22 percent on average. However, in Soaring Heights and Windsock went up 38 percent and land values were up 86 percent or in some cases even more.
On Monday, dozens turned out to hear Haywood's explanation.
Haywood said he based the values on 195 qualified sales townwide from Oct. 1, 2017, to April 1, 2019, including nine sales in Soaring Heights and Windsock Village.
Haywood said the last assessment was done in 2015. He said revaluations have to be done at least every five years. He said town assessments went up an average of 20 percent.
He advised residents to look at their property cards and make sure there are no errors. If there are errors, they should be brought to his attention.
Residents have from the time they get their tax bill over the next few months to March 1, 2020, to file an abatement.
Haywood said he's still finalizing the numbers and would be done in a couple of days when the work goes to the town and then off to the state.
He said he's appraising properties at a rate of $17.50 per property.
Stephen Ciavola of Windsock was among the crowd. He said his home has less value than someone from Soaring Heights who would have taxiway rights. He said he bought his house for $171,000 in 2017 when it was appraised at $194,000. He recently received a letter saying it’s worth $260,000.
“I have no idea how you got to that number, but I haven’t had time to meet with you and go over it,” said Ciavola to Haywood.
“I read an article that if you assess my property for a higher value than I can sell it I absolutely have the right to take the town to court to say, ‘Hey, I can never possibly sell it for this number, but you’re saying I could.'
Haywood said the home value is based on the 195 sales. He said homes of a similar characteristics, like size and style, would have similar values.
"The difference is the neighborhood," said Haywood. "There's a bunch of neighborhoods around that have their land curve. I can stratify the sales and see which neighborhood is high or low and then adjust the land based on that."
When Selectman Sam Martin said Ciavola's three minutes to speak were up, Ciavola disagreed, saying that Haywood used up much of his time.
"No, actually, you are over your time," said Martin. "I allowed him to answer."
When Ciavola asked if he could make a last point, Martin told him he was "done."
"I'm a disabled veteran and a retired police officer, and I came here to speak on my valuable time, and it's one simple question," said Ciavola. "You've let people run over in other instances, and you won't give me the right to ask him one final question of when I get to speak with this gentleman (Haywood) to find out the exact numbers so I know where I stand for my family? You won't grant me that? That's inappropriate."
Ciavola received applause as he picked up his young daughter and left the room while Ossipee Police Chief Joe Duchesne told Ciavola, "Enough."
Martin and Duchesne told the Sun on Tuesday that their intention was simply to ask Ciavola to stop speaking, not that he had to leave.
There were other flashpoints in the meeting as well. One was when a man who didn't identify himself but said he lives on Duncan Lake Road asked the selectmen pointed questions.
"Aren't you people pissed?" he said to the board. "Why aren't you sticking up for us? We voted for you."
The audience clapped.
Another woman said she thought Martin was "disrespectful" to Ciavola.
Paula Moore, a real estate broker and resident of Windsock Village (not the president, as reported last week) said her community didn't perform like the rest of the market in Ossipee.
"Our big problem ... is the value of the land," said Moore. "How does it go up 84 percent in five years when our market is terrible in Windsock Village?"
Moore said she saw that Haywood lowered the value of her property but from 2015-19 her land value was still up 54 percent.
Haywood said his numbers are based on home sales.
"I didn't make up the sale prices," said Haywood. "They did happen."
Linda Hatfield of Soaring Heights said one sale there was made to a buyer outside the country who paid too much. She said it takes years for sellers to find a buyer because there are fees to maintain the runway, taxiway and the roads.
But Haywood said buyers know about the fees before they make the purchase. He said he looks at the prices when they are sold.
One woman said she bought a home in Windsock that had a tarp on the roof for five years and things were falling apart. In 2015, it was assessed at $244,500. She said the roof has been repaired, and now its valued at $325,000.
"If you could find me a buyer for half that price, I would be happy to let this one go right now," she said, adding she purchased the home for $130,000 through an estate sale from a seller who was not related to her.
Haywood said if the property card is wrong, she should invite him to look at it.
Bob Pustell said when he moved from New York and bought his house, he paid too much because he was so enthused with the property. He said the qualified sale process throws out transactions like estate sales that are common in the community. He said most houses are on the market for years.
"Soaring Heights is a place old pilots go to die," said Pustell. "There are a lot of estate sales in our area and to automatically discount them short circuits a realistic evaluation."