Town of Romulus wins Lakeshore Landing lawsuit

The Town of Romulus has defeated a lawsuit by a local corporation that sought to reduce from nearly $300,000 total to zero the taxable value of several private properties that the corporation owns.In a decision dated Thursday (May 21), Acting Supreme Court Justice Dennis Bender ruled that Lakeshore Landing Homeowners Association Inc. (“Lakeshore Landing”) had failed to provide any evidence to show the town’s assessor and board of assessment review erred in setting the parcels’ values during the town’s 2014 assessment process.Lakeshore Landing filed its lawsuit in July 2014. In its petition, the association argued that various common areas it owned—including a pavilion, a boat launch and parking lot—had no value. Romulus assessor Anna Morgan had assessed the properties at $299,200.00 total value. Her determination was upheld by the board of assessment review in June of last year.On Tuesday (May 19), Romulus Town attorney Steven Getman asked the court to dismiss the case. Arguing for dismissal, Getman stated that the law required Lakeshore Landing to submit appraisals or other factual data to show that the assessments were excessive. In this case, Getman said, the association had failed to do so. Furthermore, Getman noted, various legal factors demonstrated that the properties had a value to Lakeshore Landing, including its right to borrow against the properties or sell them outright.The upstate lawfirm Harris, Beach, PLLC, represented Lakeshore Landing. In support of the lawsuit Harris Beach attorney Ted Williams submitted an affidavit from Lakeshore Landing’s treasurer, Mary Anne Kowalski. Kowalski set forth her belief that the value of the corporation’s common properties was reflected in the sale prices of individual homes in the development. This, Lakeshore felt, was a form of double taxation on its corporate property.In his ruling, Bender rejected that argument. “The petitioner has failed to provide any appraisal or shown any evidence that the property has been overvalued, beyond their belief that the Town has down so,” Bender held. “In the absence of substantial evidence to the contrary, the tax assessment should be upheld as presumptively valid.” Therefore, he granted Romulus summary judgment, dismissing Lakeshore Landing’s petition.Romulus Town Supervisor David Kaiser said he was pleased with the court’s decision, noting that, if Lakeshore Landing had succeeded, the town’s other taxpayers would have been required to make up the lost revenue.Morgan, writing in support of the town’s motion to dismiss, pointed out that a ruling against the town would mean “this office would…be required to allocate the value of the [Lakeshore Landing] parcels among approximately 155 taxable properties owned by residential members of the homeowners’ association.”Lakeshore Landing will have approximately thirty days to appeal the court’s decision. It is not yet known if they intend to do so.According to its mission statement, Lakeshore Landing is a private residential neighborhood/community located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, bounded by Sampson State Park and comprised of 100+ homeowners. The association, a domestic not for profit corporation, charges fees to the homeowners within its boundaries and sets rules for use and ownership of property within its borders. The Town of Romulus is located within Seneca County, New York. The population was 2,036 at the 2000 census. It is governed by a five-person town board. David Kaiser is the town’s elected supervisor and chief fiscal officer. Anna Morgan is the town’s appointed assessor.The complete decision can be found here.

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