Craig When Homer and Shane Wilson opened their tax bill this year, they were shocked by the bottomline.
Homer, an older man, and his son, Shane, once lived in Moffat County but moved to Yuma County some years ago. Through the O'Shane Wilson trust, the two own about 13.5 acres on Crescent Drive and Wickes Avenue, directly south of the Ridgeview subdivision.
The property taxes due on their lot - which they have platted to be a six-lot commercial subdivision - went from $1,381 to $7,418 in one year, Homer said to the Moffat County Commission at its Tuesday meeting.
"I talked to people, and they said they'd never heard of a property going up 500 percent in one year," Homer said. "I'd like a break on it."
The sharp increase doesn't seem fair, Shane added.
"If our homes go up 500 percent in taxes," Shane said, "it deserves consideration at the first level of government. That's the county commissioners."
The commission investigated the methodology during the meeting and listened to the opinions of the Moffat County Assessor's Office but, in the end, reached the conclusion that the valuation on the Wilsons' property was fair.
The Assessor's Office used comparable property sales in the area to make its final valuation, said John Zimmerman, who determines commercial property value for the county.
Homer argued that it should have included that the property has no income; therefore, it is worthless.
Zimmerman said the only really applicable appraisal tool for an empty lot - because it has no structures with value and is not being used to generate income - is to look at what similar empty lots are worth on the open market.
The economic boom has changed that market, Zimmerman added.
"You always value vacant land on comparable sale prices," he said. "In prior years, we just haven't had a lot of commercial property sales. There just hasn't been a market."
Homer suggested the county should raise values incrementally to make it easier on landowners.
That's not legal, Zimmerman said. The state requires all assessors to follow the market.
"I agree. It's a hard pill to swallow for the taxpayer," Zimmerman said.
The Assessor's Office did not value the Wilsons' property at market highs, either, Chief Appraiser Jennifer Riley said.
Homer told the Commission a problem with the property's access off Crescent Drive kept him from being able to sell. Two previous sales fell through because of that problem, he added.
Assessor's Office representatives could not comment what those access issues may be, but showed the commission that one of its comparative properties that did sell was a short distance away on the same street.
"It has the same access as the Wilson property," Riley said.
That property, which sold in January 2006, sold for about 25 percent more per square foot than the Wilsons' property was valued for 2007.
In fact, Riley pointed out, every comparative property used by the Assessor's Office sold for more per square foot than the value put on the Wilson property.
"As I said in my letter to Homer, I am shocked, too, how the values went up," Moffat County Assessor Suzanne Brinks said.
The commission had two choices as the reigning County Board of Equalization: it could deny the refund request or lower the value itself.
After looking at the numbers, and doing a few quick runs on the calculator themselves, the commission said there was no evidence to justify lowering the valuation on the Wilsons' property.
"You've got a compelling argument on the surface," commissioner Tom Gray said, "but I don't know how you support it."
The Wilsons' next step, if they choose to pursue a value correction, will be to apply to the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals for a hearing. The father and son did not comment whether they would.