HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian
I was privy to a discussion on an idea that sounded like a good, ground roots, locally available, citizen motivated way to fight the ugly effects of CAFO’s in a community. A program has been developed to assist residents who live near CAFO’s to grieve their tax assessment if they believe their property value has been negatively impacted by the CAFO.
Sounds like a good idea. Who wouldn’t want lower taxes? You can go to your regions Tax Grievance Day and represent yourself. Local, easy, inexpensive.
The idea being that if enough folks showed up, the Town/County would have to recognize that people are concerned about the negative impacts on their property and lives. If the government wanted to keep tax income up, they would have to listen and respond.
So far it hasn’t worked well. Why?
1. It’s harder and more expensive than it looks:
Yes you can go to your local assessor and grieve your property valuation. But assessors are not prone to agreeing with you. They have a responsibility to bring in adequate tax revenue for area programs. OK-ing one disputed tax valuation, opens a floodgate to others. Where do you stop? Unless you have been trying to sell your home for several years and can prove you can’t get anywhere near the assessed value, they are not likely to budge. Then you need to hire an appraiser for several hundreds of dollars. As you proceed up the grievance ladder you will need to hire a lawyer -more $$$
2. What if you have mortgages/loans based on your properties value?
If you own a business your operating loans may use your property as collateral. Lower value means lower loans. As a homeowner you don’t want your property value to fall below your mortgage level, or to impact your credit rating. If you plan on selling your property, you don’t want a lower assessment either.
3. It takes time. Often time away from work.
4. It’ un-neighborly
In order to fight that CAFO, you have to speak out against your neighbors. That’s not considered polite or prudent in rural society. Not only that, but it might lead to some difficult times if family members, neighbors or friends work there. Tit- for Tat
This program has been offered in communities across the US for several years now. The handbook is available on-line. So far, for all the reasons listed above, it has not proven successful. That does not mean it’s not worth it. I could see this model working where CAFO’s have impacted higher value properties, or if lake shore residents finally realize what is splashing down stream into the lakes. Or if fisherman band together. With support from the gentry, average rural residents have a chance to make their case heard.