Public hearing on property tax schedule draws two comments; commissioners move forward with selling $7.8 million in unused land

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing on the proposed tax schedule during its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4. The commission chambers was nearly empty for the hearing and two people spoke. Photo by Dan Hesse

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners held its state-mandated public hearing on the proposed property tax schedule on Tuesday. The hearing, attended by about 10 people including media, staff and the public, drew two speakers.

Jerry Rice commented that he thought the county should have waited longer to hold the public hearing and noted he’s concerned the property tax rate will remain the same while values increase significantly. “That’s how you’ll borrow more money,” he said. The current property tax rate is 60.4 cents per $100 of valued property.

Lisa Baldwin noted that during the recession property tax revaluations were done less frequently. “Now values are accelerating, and the majority of the commission voted to revalue property,” she said. Baldwin also noted that sales tax revenue is increasing, especially from the Asheville Outlets, and that could offset property tax rates.

Commissioners closed the public hearing after the two speakers and heard a brief presentation from Keith Miller, the county’s chief appraiser.

Commissioner Tim Moffitt then said, “I actually read through 595 pages of the schedule and I have a series of questions.” He then asked Miller a variety of technical and general questions about how the property values are conceived.

Some questions of note include Moffitt’s observation the area is a tourist draw and that might create false market values. Miller said the county divides properties into submarkets, “Most of the time when a neighborhood is homogeneous, it stays in its boundaries,” he said, noting the appraisal process doesn’t allow unlike properties to affect values. “If a buyer is willing to buy, then it becomes market value,” said Miller.

Moffitt also asked what the highest value of an acre of vacant land in downtown Asheville would be. Miller responded, “What you also have to remember is that vacant land, the market has already determined what the value is. Where you will see value fluctuation in downtown is with height; uses are pretty much all comparable.”

Moffitt said he had his questions adequately answered. “I feel our tax assessors have done an excellent job. I’ve scrubbed through this document and I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” he said. “I encourage people to pull up this document. It’s  informative,  thorough and well-done.”

Commissioner Ellen Frost then asked about the appeal process and timeline. Miller said property tax revaluations will be sent out around January and the appeals process is open until April. He said the goal is to have the appeal form and instructions included with the revaluations, noting appeals can be done online, over the phone or in person.

Miller said there are three levels of appeals. The first is an informal process whereby a citizen provides new information that might change the property’s value. “Ninety-five percent of homes, we will never step foot inside. There is a tremendous amount of information we don’t have. I always encourage citizens to send pictures, invite us to walk through the house, and we will always try to work it out with them,” said Miller.

If the process does not provide a satisfactory result, then property owners initiate a formal appeals process in front of a five-member board of appointed citizens. The board will listen to property owners and assessors, and then make a decision based on that information.

The final appeal process is to take the case to the Property Tax Commission in Raleigh. “To brag on our office, we have very few that get to that step,” said Miller.

The commissioners did not take any formal action on the proposed tax schedule, but it will be up for final approval at their next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

You can view the proposed property tax schedule here.

Land sale

137.21 acres of land on Ferry Road is one of five parcels the county will try to sell using a real estate agent. The above property could fetch $6.8 million and the total of all five properties could yield $7,867,500.
137.21 acres of land on Ferry Road is one of five parcels the county will try to sell using a real estate agent. It was once being eyed by Deschutes Brewery as a potential location for its east coast expansion. The above property could fetch $6.8 million and the total of all five properties could yield $7,867,500.

The county will also start the process of selling five parcels of land, including the one-time potential location of Deschutes Brewery’s East Coast expansion, in hopes of generating $7.8 million in revenue.

County Manager Wanda Greene says the properties have not garnered any interest on the upset bid market and asked commissioners for permission to move ahead with having a real estate agent sell them.

Greene said there are issues with all of the parcels, ranging from being in the flood plain, being very steep, having heavy-duty power lines over the property and costing the county too much money to maintain property that has little development value.

Some commissioners noted that neighbors or community leaders might be able to identify uses for the land and asked staff to initiate that process while also moving forward with trying to sell the land.

The properties in question are: 137.21 acres on Ferry Road valued at $6.8 million; 2.08 acres at 32 Compton Drive valued at $915,000; 8.55 acres on U.S. 70 valued at $61,900; 0.95 acres at 108 Smokemont Drive valued at $44,100; and 1.17 acres at 1322 Double Knob Drive valued at $46,500.

You can view the properties’ footprints here.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month
County commissioners also declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Julie Klipp Nicholson, coordinator of the county’s new Family Justice Center, said more than 100 survivors have used the facility’s resources since opening in August.

“We must recommit to holding offenders accountable. … We must once again say, ‘Enough, we do not tolerate domestic violence in Buncombe County,'” Klipp Nicholson told commissioners before receiving the official proclamation. You can read more about the Family Justice Center from Xpress’ story in August here.

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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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17 thoughts on “Public hearing on property tax schedule draws two comments; commissioners move forward with selling $7.8 million in unused land

  1. Negrodamus

    The policy of linear increases in property taxes based on property value is so evil and corrupt. There needs to be damping mechanisms and caps to protect local residents from outsiders with easy/ready cash, who destroy local culture by forcing locals to leave because they can no longer afford to pay property taxes. It’s really interesting and revealing (and sad) to witness those who espouse indigenous rights and community justifying destroying others’ culture and community because they have the power of money.

    • bsummers

      “Evil”? You’d think conservative Commission members Moffitt, Fryar, or Belcher would try to do something about it.

        • bsummers

          So you’re saying Mike Fryar and Joe Belcher are deliberately staying silent about “evil” because they’re afraid they’ll lose a vote, Fred “Fisher” Caudle? In an election year? Golly.

          Why should conservatives vote for them, again?

          • Deplorable Infidel

            Barry, what kind of job do you have ? How do you earn your living ?

      • Lulz

        Yes, actually they’re the only one’s talking about NOT increasing the rates along with the re-evaluations. Especially Fryar. That thief who made ALL HIS MONEY WHILE IN OFFICE though, the creep Newman can’t wait to be creamed by them. It’s like he’s got a hard on for it because we all know that means MORE money in his personal accounts.

    • luther blissett

      “by forcing locals to leave because they can no longer afford to pay property taxes.”

      This sounds like a variant on “inheritance taxes kill family farms”, i.e. not backed up by the evidence. If people are leaving for economic reasons, it’s because of job prospects and overall affordability, not specifically property taxes. Those paying property taxes own property and its value has outpaced inflation by a large amount. That’s even before factoring in the 50% exclusion for over-65s on low incomes. Caps and dampening mechanisms risk the disincentives seen in California since Prop 13, where sprawling new development becomes preferable to sales of existing housing. That changes the culture and community in its own way.

      “Baldwin also noted that sales tax revenue is increasing, especially from the Asheville Outlets, and that could offset property tax rates.”

      That’s a reasonable point, except that sales tax revenue is variable and subject to tinkering from Raleigh. You can’t make the same kind of mid- or long-term budgetary decisions that are available when drawing on property tax revenues. I still support a revenue-neutral rate after the reassessment for at least a year, and there should be a proper debate about the different revenue components of the county budget, but we’ll need to see what the tax base looks like first.

      • Negrodamus

        You sound like a realtor. Yes, inheritance taxes can destroy a family farm. If heirs don’t have the equity to pay the death tax, they have to sell the farm.

        • luther blissett

          [citation needed]

          The threshold on the estate tax is $5m per individual. And there are plenty of legal mechanisms to preserve farm estates for future generations if the desire is there and there’s appropriate planning. You know what typically breaks up family farms? Children who want to cash out their portion of the inheritance. Same thing happens to family homes when there are multiple inheritors. Nothing to do with the IRS.

          Anyway, get back to us if you can find someone who has been forced to leave Buncombe County specifically because of property taxes.

        • Deplorable Infidel

          Not unless the farm is worth over $5 MILLION, duh…not many of those …anyone with that kind of equity usually is smart enough to have arrangements made thru trusts, etc to avoid such government theft…

      • Lulz

        LOL, Greene got a 35K pay raise this year and only refused to take it after vocal opposition. What’s that thieving crony up to these days? 275,000 annual? The 3rd highest in the state? No, they need no more revenue increases. They need swift kicks in the rear ends.

      • Asheville Resident

        ” . . . That’s even before factoring in the 50% exclusion for over-65s on low incomes. ” The exclusion doesn’t do much for seniors on fixed incomes, unless they are disabled and very, very poor.

        “Claimant must be a North Carolina resident, 65 years of age or totally and permanently disabled (physician’s statement required), and have a combined income of both spouses for the preceding year not to exceed $29,500.”

        A fairer way to figure property taxes in to raised the value when the property is actually sold, to its new market value. Elderly people living in homes they bought 30 or 40 years ago see their valuations and their taxes go up, even if their incomes and cash flows haven’t. It can be a real problem.
        South Carolina, on the other hand, allows a $50, 000 exemption for anyone over 65, regardless of income or health status. Over-65s in North Carolina need to lobby their legislators.

        The

        • luther blissett

          “Elderly people living in homes they bought 30 or 40 years ago see their valuations and their taxes go up, even if their incomes and cash flows haven’t.”

          Reverse mortgages or cash-out refis are a thing. If you have a house in Montford that you bought 40 years ago for $20,000, own free and clear, and is now valued at a half-million, then I’m sorry but you are not near the top of my priority list.

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