Hampshire loses tax cert case

Hampshire_Swimming_Pool

The Hampshire County Club, pictured, has lost a certiorari proceeding against the Village of Mamaroneck; one of few to land in front of a state Supreme Court judge. The club claimed it was worth only $4.5 million, while the village estimated the property at $12 million. Photo/hampshireclub.com

By ASHLEY HELMS
The Hampshire Country Club has lost a certiorari claim against the Village of Mamaroneck; one of very few certiorari cases from the village that end up in front of a state Supreme Court Judge.

Since the village won the proceeding, the club’s tax assessment value stands at $12 million.

Club owners claimed their property, located at 1025 Cove Road in Mamaroneck, was over assessed for tax years 2010 through 2013 and was only worth $4.5 million. The village estimated the property was worth $12 million.

Because the club is located within both the village and town of Mamaroneck, a separate proceeding was filed against the town for assessment years 2011 and 2012, but that claim was also rejected. The Town of Mamaroneck is a separate assessing unit from the village.

In 2010, the Hampshire Country Club was sold to New World Realty for $12 million after the club began facing financial difficulties and would’ve had difficulty staying open. The sale of the club ties directly into concerns of some village residents that contend the club is violating local zoning codes by operating as a for-profit business instead of a member-run nonprofit.

Village Attorney Charles Goldberger’s firm represented the village in the case with his firm’s attorney Joanna Feldman handling the trial. Goldberger said there was too large of a disparity between the village’s assessment and what the club felt it was worth. The trial began in August and concluded on Sept. 23.

The village attorney said the opinion of village officials was that the property assessment value that Hampshire estimated for itself was much too low.

“They had ludicrous numbers from estimators that said $4 million. We asked them how the value was $4.5 million when you paid $12 million,” Goldberger said.

Tax certiorari claims are formal proceedings with property owners usually hiring a lawyer to contest the case before a state Supreme Court. Goldberger said that most cases are settled outside of court and it’s very unusual to have a full trial. “Nine times out of 10 most certioris are settled,” Goldberger said.

John Hofstetter, a former Village of Mamaroneck Trustee, said New World Realty spent $3 million on structural improvements to the club, and he thinks the property should be worth more than $12 million when the cost of improvements are accounted for.

“To me, the club, shortly after they bought it was worth $15 million,” Hofstetter said.

But, despite Hampshire potentially being worth more now, Hofstetter said the village wouldn’t have been in a position to raise the club’s taxes anyway. When an owner grieves his or her taxes, a municipality is not allowed to raise those taxes until the claim is resolved.

Bruce Tolbert, the state Supreme Court judge presiding over the certiorari case, decided the outcome by looking over the club’s deed and purchase price instead of using property value estimations. Goldberger said that his firm provided the judge with the deed and purchase price paperwork on behalf of the village.

Cases such as these could all change in the future if the village follows through on assessment options.

One of the proposals, though somewhat unlikely, is that the village would cease to function as an assessment unit and adopt the Town of Mamaroneck’s tax rolls; the town recently completed a full revaluation of all properties. Doing so,would mean that the village would subsequently be letting go of its assessor.

Dan Pfeffer, a partner in New World Realty, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com