Thomaston resident seeks fairness in erroneous land assessments

By Beth A. Birmingham | Apr 10, 2018
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Assessors' Agent David Martucci, standing, explains issues found in several land assessments in Thomaston at the Board of Selectmen's meeting April 9.

Thomaston — In an effort to right a wrong, Thomaston Assessors' Agent David Martucci presented to the Board of Selectmen April 9 a consideration for the abatement and refund of taxes on three properties that were wholly or partly assessed to the wrong owners.

"This started when I had several inquiries on land in the Northern Beech Woods," Martucci said. "There were a lot of inconsistencies in the way our map was drawn."

Martucci said this year he had a landowner come to him with a deed to two lots -- one of which is found easily on the map, while the other is "no where to be found at all."

In addition, Martucci had one man who believed he was being assessed for a lot he did not own, as well as inquiries from some heirs to land that was misdeeded.

"I did some temporary resolutions two or three years ago, but I knew those would not be a permanent fix," Martucci said.

In beginning to look into the issues, Martucci went back to drawings done in 1811 so he would have an idea of what the original lots looked like. Then he did deed research on those, as well as lots created between 1820 and 1890, to get to the modern-day map.

He explained that some issues arose in relation to the fact that many of the lots in question had been taken by the town for back taxes and quit-claimed to others with almost no description.

"That uncovered a fairly substantial issue in which the town had taken a parcel known as the Decrow lot in 1936 -- deeded to the town in lieu of taxes -- and we proceeded to sell it in 1950 to Lawrence Hunt, who sold it to the Harper family in 1951," Martucci explained.

Interestingly, in 1986 the selectmen sold it again to a different person, and now as he is trying to put all the pieces together, Martucci said he has two people who have deeds to the same lot.

"The only way to resolve that is the earlier deed would control that," he said. His recommendation was to transfer the title of the Decrow lot to the proper owners, the Harper heirs, "and extend our apologies to Ellen Spring and Donald Sanborn," who had bought the lot back in 1986.

Martucci explained that in the process he did find out and agreed with William Emery that he did not own a lot in question off Dunbar Road, and doesn't know how it was ever assessed to him.

"I also found out the lot we showed as 5.5 acres was actually 37 acres, a fairly substantial error in the map," Martucci said.

Another issue he found was that the town had been assessing Lawrence Brooks for nearly all of that difference -- 31.5 acres -- when it was actually deeded to his brother.

Martucci said the board agreed to abate the taxes to the owners who are not actually owners of any of the properties in question.

"This is a clear case of error where we have assessed the wrong owners, and the only way you can fix that is to abate those taxes and refund anything they paid," he said.

Taxes that are abated are repaid with 3 percent interest in the town of Thomaston currently.

Present in the audience was Ellen Spring, who had thought she had purchased land off Beechwood Street that was assessed at $25,335.

"Now it's being said that I owe nothing and all this money that I have been paying in taxes for 32 years is nothing, and now I don't own the land that I paid $3,600 for," Spring said. "I am not happy in just getting back taxes for three or four years."

"That doesn't seem fair," she said.

Martucci said state law limits the number of years abatement of taxes can go back.

He said there has not been a professional title search by the state, but from the town's point of view and by state law, once a problem is discovered, the town has to make the maximum amends allowed by law.

"I agree this has been going on for a long time and should've been caught a long time ago, but it wasn't," he said.

Martucci said he feels any further settlement would be beyond the scope of his position.

"It is the town of Thomaston's error," resident Scott Johnson said. "We really need to step up and take care of this. That's my opinion."

Spring read from the paperwork she received back in 1986, which stated when the payment was due and that a quitclaim deed would be issued upon payment.

"Donald Sanborn, who is now deceased, and I were co-owners who purchased the land with a Quit Claim deed in 1986," Spring said in a statement April 10.

"It was land that Don and I often used to run on from trails in the woods," said Spring, an avid runner.

The recommendation of abating the property taxes of $477.82 for 2016-17 and $456.79 for 2015-16, plus this year's taxes, which should be in the same vicinity, was accepted, with a motion to take it under advisement for future discussion with regard to the Spring lot in question.

"The next step is for Valmore Blastow and me to meet to talk and try to work something out," Spring said.

The other two abatements were accepted as well, to Lawrence and Kay Brooks for property on Dunbar Place West for taxes in 2016-17 for $237.79 and $501.29 for 2015-16 and to William Emery taxes on property off Dunbar Road were abated for $93.02 for tax year 2016-17 and $88.92 for 2015-16.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Dale Hayward | Apr 10, 2018 15:10

It is always the right thing to do, my state law, to cheat someone out of their money, and just tell them, tough luck. Pay the lady out of some slush fund hiding in them their banks.



If you wish to comment, please login.