Prosecutor denies activist's appeal - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Prosecutor denies activist's appeal

Spencer sought to challenge assessment of Silverwood Theme Park property

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Posted: Friday, July 8, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 9:44 am, Fri Nov 16, 2012.

The Kootenai County prosecutor has determined a Spirit Lake resident can't appeal a property assessment on land he doesn't own, after analyzing Idaho statues and seeking other counties' advice.

"It was definitely worth taking the time, because it's a question that needed to be answered, for the board (of commissioners) and for the public," said Barry McHugh, county prosecuting attorney, who said he hasn't seen this situation come up before.

Larry Spencer, a Spirit Lake developer and vocal community activist, applied to appeal an assessment on Silverwood Theme Park property this month in front of the Board of Equalization.

He believes the park was wrongly granted a timber exemption on developed acreage, he said.

But on the day of the appeal hearing last week, Spencer received a call from the county legal department, informing him that he couldn't appeal after all.

Individuals can only appeal an assessment, he was told, if they own the property or have ownership interest.

He didn't believe it.

Taxpayers should be able to appeal any property assessment, Spencer said, because every property value impacts others.

"Everyone's property tax assessments affect how much everybody else pays," he said. "Everybody's taxes are affected by one exemption."

He pointed out that a BOE procedure manual created by the Idaho Association of Counties states, "Most appellants are property owners who appeal their own assessment" ... "However, any property owner can appeal any assessment."

The county had to look into it.

The challenge, McHugh said, is that Idaho code isn't specific on this.

Chapter 5 of Title 63 merely states that "taxpayers" may file an appeal.

"There's no definition of what taxpayer means," McHugh said. "Does it mean the taxpayer who owns the property, or has ownership interest? Or does that mean any taxpayer who lives in the county? It's just an unknown."

County offices consulted with other entities.

Ada and Bannock counties directed that an appeal doesn't have standing unless the appellant has ownership interest, McHugh said.

Even staff with the Idaho Association of Counties made the same recommendation, McHugh said.

McHugh said he has deemed that individuals can only appeal a property assessment if they own the land, represent the owners or have ownership interest.

"I believe that this will be the position of the county, absent either a statute change or a court case that concludes differently," McHugh said.

Commissioner Dan Green said he defers to the county's legal department.

"I would say it seems to be a difference of interpretation of statute between Spencer and the prosecutor," Green said.

Spencer said he plans to appeal the county's decision to the Idaho Board of Tax Appeals.

He believes his opinion is supported by an email he received from Steve Fiscus, division administrator with the Idaho State Tax Commission.

"I am familiar with cases where taxpayers, who felt they were aggrieved, filed appeals on other properties, specifically exempt property (church), and were heard by the BOE and the state Board of Tax Appeals," Fiscus wrote.

Silverwood representative Nancy DiGiammarco said Spencer does not have approval to represent the company.

He doesn't have accurate information about the company's property, she said, adding that the company's forest plan was approved by the Assessor's Office.

"Everything we have done has been by all the rules and regulations," she said.

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  • question authority posted at 7:00 am on Mon, Jul 11, 2011.

    question authority Posts: 28

    I really wish the press would stop referring to Larry Spencer at "the Spirit Lake developer". Larry doesn't live in Spirit Lake, he lives in Emerald Estates, Hayden and when was the last time he developed anything?

  • Close Enough posted at 2:56 pm on Fri, Jul 8, 2011.

    Close Enough Posts: 134

    It's always enjoyable to watch our elected officials cringe every time Spencer starts asking questions. Like him or not, you have to admit the guy sure is entertaining.

  • progressive posted at 10:07 am on Fri, Jul 8, 2011.

    progressive Posts: 26

    Larry Spencer is once again using the justice system as his own personal vendeta. When will Larry be held accountable for the massive amount of taxpayer dollars spent fending off his petty and irresponsible legal challanges? This is another in a series of suits that he and his companions have filed that take time and money to defend, only to find in the end that he has no case. A great example is the bogus suit that Larry, Bill Mc Crory and Tom Macy filed against NIC. The amount of time & money spent by the taxpayers of Kootenai Co. defending this is probably very large and the result is once again, they do not have a case and they lose. I I just wish that the taxpayers could counter sue these sue happy clowns for all of the legal costs that they have cost us. And when is the Press going to be more alert to these bogus claims and tell the public about the incured costs?

  • The Late Louis Nizer posted at 9:10 am on Fri, Jul 8, 2011.

    The Late Louis Nizer Posts: 188

    Spencer has raised an important and interesting issue. If a property owner and a county assessor agree to a factually unsupported low assessment which results in a tax benefit of the property owner, neither the owner or someone with an ownership interest is going to appeal. The result will be higher tax payments by other taxpayers, who according to McHugh, have no standing to appeal. One might wonder if a county assessor was receiving anything of tangible value from the property owner or someone with an ownership interest as a result of such an arrangement.

  • Jeffrey Wherley posted at 8:18 am on Fri, Jul 8, 2011.

    Jeffrey Wherley Posts: 3969

    If Spencer did win to remove the Timber Tax Exemption, and Silverwood decided to sell the Timber off and expand the park. Then he would Sue to keep the trees as a noise buffer, or sue because the removal of the trees caused noise impacts. Spencer is just a pain in the Ask to everyone he exists near, he is never tolerant of others.

    I am personally happy they have the exemption as an excuse to keep all those trees as a buffer. Silverwood is a responsible neighbor, and provider of Jobs and Charity. Thanks.

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