Taxes

There’s a dispute going on in town over who’s property values have increased less – something like the Monty Python routine where the boys argue over who had the worst childhood (“We used to have to live in a corridor!” “Ohhhh we used to DREAM of livin’ in a corridor! Woulda’ been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!”).

It seems the residents in our Back Country have hired an expert to study their houses’ worth and he’s concluded that they’re being overcharged on their taxes while Chickahominy residents are getting a free (well, reduced, anyway) ride. Needless to say the Chickahominy residents cry foul, and on it goes.

I hate to side with the Back Country folks when it’s coming out of my hide, but the data support them. Year to date, the N.W. corner’s “Assessment Factor” – assessed value compared to sales price, stands at 2.16, lowest of all areas of town except for the N.E. corner, at 2.02. Chickahominy, on the other hand, has a 2.86 factor, second highest in town. Only downtown Greenwich is higher, at 2.88.

All of which is not to say that Chickahominy should pay higher taxes and our wealthiest residents should pay less but any discussion of the issue should at least begin with the agreement that the tax assessor may have been a bit too zealous when valuing the four acre zone in the past.

On the Other Hand

Our town’s tax department has always gone easy on commercial property for some reason. 55 Railroad Avenue, appraised at $40,927,000 just two years ago, sold this year for $97,750,000. 33 Benedict Place, appraised at $30,870,000 in 2001, sold this month for $87,500,000. I’d prefer to see taxes reduced for everyone, but I can’t help pointing out to our appraisers that a building even bigger than and right next door to Unilever, U.S.T.’s headquarters, is currently valued at only $42,100,000. It might be worth dropping by for another look.

New Listings of Note

Laurie Smith has listed 119 Oneida Drive for $3,850,000, which seems just about right for this house and this location. I can’t guarantee that you’ll fall in love with this house but I did, and so did several other Realtors who saw it with me. Built in 1914, renovated in 2003, it’s on an acre of land near the water. And, although I consider Greenwich interior designers to be the group most responsible for the ruination of civilization, this owner, Jane Ellsworth, is herself a decorator and has done a fantastic job to her own house. I wouldn’t change a thing about it and when I’m ready to refurbish my cardboard box, I know who I’ll call. It (this house, not my box) comes with a pool, five bedrooms and a pretty neat carriage house/garage.

Lower down on the price scale is Liz Dagnino’s listing at 21 Bramble Lane, asking $1,695,000. I was stunned when a Bramble Lane house sold for $1,500,000 two years ago; now it seems cheap. This is a raised ranch, which is usually a tough sell but it’s very, very nice inside and, unlike some houses of similar design, this one works really well. Good street, nice house.

Diane Dutcher held an open house at 17 Hendrie Avenue to showcase the work of her client, Nick Barile of York Builders. I’ve admired this builder’s recent projects and this one is just as well made as the others. Nice attention to detail, a judicious use of antique mantles and newell posts to blend a bit of old with the new, all to great effect. Asking price was originally $3,500,000 but the buyers added some extras, like a pool, so I don’t know what the final price will be. Regardless, I think Mr. Barile will have some happy customers.

And Speaking of Interior Designers

It’s astonishing how much money is spent in this town converting otherwise comfortable houses into frigid mansions that no one would dare relax in. I feel sorry for the poor schnook who, having turned over his Platinum Card to the Little Woman, returns home to discover that his house has been festooned with hideously expensive (and just plain hideous) floor-to-ceiling drapes, bad antiques and every gimcrack and geegaw the decorator could unload on him. I remember one “Gentleman’s Study” like this, crammed with old English hunting prints and paintings of dogs who never lifted a leg in the Brooklyn neighborhood the Master of the House grew up in, antique shotguns, and the like. Turns out, the guy didn’t even like being outdoors, let alone traipse over fields behind beaters and gun dogs. Sheesh.

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