Another View of the Recent Town Board Solar Vote – by Anthony Daniele
I concur with Tim Pryor’s letter regarding the Mendon Town Board’s ruling on NYS Real Property Tax Law section 487. At recent Board meetings, it became clear that at least some Board members were not fully familiar with the law, especially the fact that the exemption applied to only a percentage of the increased value resulting from the added system – not a complete relief from taxation. This is a concern, as is the fact that the Board never explained the law, or its thinking on same, on the official Town website. It is therefore impossible to know how they presented the law as they discussed it with Mendon residents or even how the Board reached its decision.
During discussion of the resolution by the Board at its July 17 meeting, most Board members said they had spoken with various Mendon residents, who were near unanimous in their opposition to the tax exemption.
The general belief seemed to be that the exemption applied only to businesses (not accurate), probably not local businesses, and that residents feel that they “pay my taxes” and no break should be given to anyone else. Mr. Hagreen suggested that the assessor “probably” would not increase the assessment of any homeowner who constructed a system for his or her home. He said a solar system might be viewed by potential buyers as a benefit or, instead, an eyesore. This position poses two problems. First, it requires the assessor to ignore and disobey the law. Second, any part of a home; a pool, a deck or even siding – could be viewed by potential buyers as a benefit or not. Does the assessor then put a value on none of the property’s features?
It is impossible to know what any given assessor might do. Will he or she increase your assessment? Increase yours but not your neighbors? By how much? I told the Board there will be no recourse if you believe the assessor increased your assessment because of a solar, wind or biomass system. A Court will be required to dismiss any argument based on section 487 because the Town opted out of the law.
And this does not even go to the argument of promoting sustainable energy. The Board made pains to say it favors sustainability, but this ruling contradicts those statements.