Settlement reached in assessment lawsuit

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Jul 28, 2010 - 06:09 PM

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against Gloucester County regarding unfair assessment.

Bill Dodson Jr. of Clay Bank, representing himself, filed suit in Gloucester Circuit Court in late May, claiming the county unfairly assessed his property. Dodson sought immediate tax relief and any penalties for up to six months following a court ruling on the value of the property.

In the suit, Dodson also ordered the county to release the methodology the assessment department used to value his property and other properties in the county.

In court documents filed, Dodson asked that his property be assessed at $10,000 less than the $235,000 he paid for it at auction in 2007, lowering it from its recently assessed value of $354,200. He argued that, according to fair market appraisal and comparison assessments from 2009, the property should have been valued at less than the purchase price.

According to the consent order filed Monday in Gloucester Circuit Court, both Dodson and Gloucester County agreed to the assessed value of $225,000 for 2010 and each tax year thereafter until the next general reassessment.

Citing an "unusual lack of attention, by the assessor, to evidence presented by the petitioner," Dodson had also requested that he be paid a penalty from the county for loss of revenue, at petitioner’s usual and customary rate of billing, and all fees associated with the following: Preparation for hearings (18 hours); BOE hearing (4.5 hours); court appearance for date of hearing (4.5 hours); court hearing (4.5 hours); $82 filing fee and "any additional unanticipated hours that may be incurred."

The agreed consent order stated, "All allegations or relief sought by (Dodson) beyond the correction of the assessment of the property, including any request for damages or injunctive relief, (shall) be dismissed with prejudice."

The settlement also left it open so that in the future, Dodson may contest the legality, validity, or appropriateness of the county’s real estate tax assessment methodology or to contest other or future real estate assessments.


County spokesperson Christi Lewis said Ted Wilmot, Gloucester County’s Attorney, is out of town this week so no official comment has been released on the settlement.

Dodson said Monday the suit was not about money, but about getting a correct assessment.

He also clarified that the property he filed suit over is not a residence, but a parcel of farm property adjacent to the residence, which is approximately 70 percent wetlands.

He said state code allows one appeal to circuit court if the owner can show fair market value through an accurate appraisal, show taxes are not comparable with other similar properties, and show that the assessment was not equalized.

"I am very satisfied that the county administration and the board of supervisors appear to be giving the matter of assessment methodology some attention," Dodson said. "Now the work needs to be done to fix the current assessment."