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Canton fighting plaza assessment challenge

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CANTON — Faced with losing thousands of dollars a year in property tax revenues, the Town Council took action Monday to fight an assessment lawsuit lodged by the owners of University Plaza, Route 11.

After meeting in executive session, the board voted unanimously to spend $9,900 to hire Michael L. Varley, a certified real estate appraiser from Ogdensburg, to appraise the value of the plaza.

Through an Article 7 proceeding, the plaza’s owner, GA Apollo LLC, claims its 2012 property assessment should be lowered from $3 million to $1.7 million. Article 7 is the process by which assessments are grieved in court.

The plaza houses Rex Hardware, Fashion Craze, the Canton Flea Market, Dollar General, Ye Olde Liquors, a laundromat, a Chinese buffet restaurant, Subway, Key Bank, Pizza Hut and Burger King.

Town Supervisor David T. Button said the town stands to lose $2,977 a year in property taxes if Apollo is successful. Canton Central School District would lose substantially more, about $24,700 annually. The village and St. Lawrence County also would be affected.

“We take the lead because we are the assessing agency, but the school is always the most greatly impacted,” Mr. Button said.

He said the town will ask the school district and the village to contribute toward the cost of the appraisal. In prior assessment challenges, the town and village have each contributed 25 percent for appraisal expenses, while the Canton school district chipped in 50 percent.

“That’s the basis we’re going to approach the other participants,” Mr. Button said.

Town Attorney Charles B. Nash said the town was ordered by state Supreme Court Judge David R. Demarest to conduct the appraisal by Dec. 1 or lose the lawsuit by default.

Apollo has filed assessment challenges every year since 2009, but this is the first year it is “showing an interest” in taking the case to trial, Mr. Nash said.

The town of Canton also is among a handful of north country towns facing an Article 7 assessment challenge from Iroquois Gas Transmission System L.P.

Iroquois wants a judge to lower the assessment on its buried pipeline, including decreasing its Canton assessment from $14,518,032 to $1,541,803. If successful, the town alone would lose $29,715 annually, Mr. Button said.

The towns of Waddington and Pitcairn in St. Lawrence County and the towns of New Bremen and Diana in Lewis County also face assessment challenges from Iroquois Transmission. Four towns in Schoharie County also face assessment challenges from Iroquois.

“We’ve made no decisions yet related to Iroquois,” Mr. Button said.

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