GLENMONT A number of large landowners in the Town of Bethlehem staged a protest last week to speak out against the recent townwide reassessments.
The protest was held Thursday, April 17, outside of Milestone Restaurant in Glenmont. The location and time was chosen to coincide with the Bethlehem Democratic Committee’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Fundraiser.
“We would like to send a message that the community at large benefits from all of the green space and viewshed that the Town Board constantly talks about, and the jump in assessments on open land is just so sudden and so unfair,” said resident Keith Wiggand, who was acting as spokesman for the group.
The Town Board opted to do a full reassessment last spring to ensure all property was assessed at full market value. The last reassessment was done in 2006, and although they are not required, the state recommends one is done every four years.
Preliminary assessments were sent out in March. A number of residents are now going through preliminary hearings with the firm that did the work, GAR Associates, to possibly get their assessments lowered before going to Grievance Day, which is scheduled for May 27.
Town Supervisor John Clarkson said the project wasn’t done to bring the town more revenue but to shift some of what residents are paying onto commercial property owners. He said the assessment will benefit the vast majority of homeowners, who should see their taxes stay the same or decrease.
Acting Town Assessor Laurie Lamberstan said she recently found out vacant land was not reassessed in 2006, which was not in compliance with state requirements.
Wiggand said the group of landowners decided to hold the protest because they did not feel their concerns were heard at the last Town Board meeting.
“Some parcels’ assessments are going up over 1,000 percent,” said Wiggand. “How are those people going to pay their taxes when the time comes?”