Beallwood residents in Columbus, Ga., hear how to fight high property tax assessments.

Among about 25 people who gathered Friday at the Beallwood community center to address the abrupt rise in many property tax assessments was a homeowner whose complaint seemed typical of angry taxpayers:

He has a 40-by-160 foot vacant lot next to his Beallwood house. Last year’s tax assessment said it was worth about $1,000, he said. This year its value was $133,000.

“If I could get it, I’d sell it today,” he said of the $133,000. He doesn’t see that happening.

Beallwood is in Columbus Councilor Walker Garrett’s District 8. Garrett and some Realtors arranged the meeting to inform residents of how they can appeal their assessments, and how council hopes to handle the deluge of complaints that have flooded in since reassessment notices went out.

The primary issue in Beallwood, the area west of Hamilton Road and north of Manchester Expressway, is that because of its mixed use, some properties that remain residential or – like that vacant lot – have no current use, have been zoned commercial in keeping with nearby businesses. When those parcels were reassessed as commercial, their value shot up.

Owners complained the reassessments were outrageous, as they could never sell their land for the value determined by the Board of Tax Assessors’ new computer system. They also felt the value should not be set by a machine without an appraiser examining the property.

“Y’all shouldn’t have got assessments that just made you have heart attacks,” Garrett said.

Garrett outlined some of the options residents have for appealing their property’s value, and talked about how council might resolve the dispute. Also participating was citywide Councilor Skip Henderson.

With the Aug. 14 deadline for appeals fast approaching, Garrett told property owners they could pay the tax based on 85 percent of their 2017 assessment or pay it based on the 2016 assessment, until their appeals are resolved. The deadline to pay this year will be Dec. 1.

The first appeal goes to the Board of Tax Assessors. A property owner dissatisfied with the outcome may further appeal to the Board of Tax Equalization, said Travis Hargrove, an attorney accompanying Garrett.

Beyond the board of equalization, property owners have to appeal to Superior Court, requiring they pay filing fees and consult an attorney, Hargrove said.

Those appealing assessments need to cite the values of other nearby properties comparable in age, use, size and location, Hargrove said. Tax assessors have said those comparable values need to have been established by sales in the previous calendar year, though appeals may cite sales from early 2017 or late 2015 if no comparable sales in 2016 are available.

Pushing more commercial development into Beallwood is contrary to the aims of Beallwood Area Neighborhood Development, or BAND, a grassroots nonprofit that since 1994 has been trying to revitalize the community by restoring residential uses and reducing commercial interests.

Garrett said investors such as real-estate firms will not want to buy residential property in Beallwood if they fear tax assessments will shoot up. With such costs passed on to tenants, the resulting rent could be too expensive for clients who otherwise would choose to live there, he said.

He said council may be able to find a way to revert back to 2016 assessments as city leaders work to resolve the complaints.

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