North Mianus residents claim victory – I’m not so sure

Sam Romeo and his North Mianus neighbors are suing the town of Greenwich over the assessments levied against their property to cover the cost of installing sewers in the neighborhood. I’m (somewhat) sympathetic – the town seems to have bungled the project and ran it far longer, at far higher cost, than should have happened in a perfect world (and it didn’t help that our local cops racked up, as they are permitted to do under state law, $500,000 in overtime pay for waving at traffic). If I understand the suit correctly, the town is paying 75% of the total cost and charging the neighborhoods served by the new sewer  the balance: 25%. I’m pretty sure that’s in accordance with town law, and that North Mianus folks are arguing that the law is wrong, in this case, because the town caused costs to soar.

Last week, a Superior Court judge, Greenwich’s own Kevin Tierney, temporarily stopped Greenwich from collecting on the unpaid assessments, but he left interest on that sum running at 18%

What the court’s ruling did was to enjoin Greenwich from enforcing its lien on the properties of homeowners who are refusing to pay their sewer tax assessment, but only until the underlying suit is concluded. That could take years and until then, the court has ruled that interest on the unpaid money will continue to accrue at 18%. A few years of that and the litigious homeowners will owe more in interest than they’re fighting about and that won’t help their bargaining position. Settlement discussions, I predict, will end up focusing on how much interest the plaintiffs will pay in addition to the amount they originally owed. That’s not much of a victory.

I think the homeowners would have been better served paying the assessment and then suing for a refund. Their tactic of refusing to pay, thus exposing themselves to the statutory 18% interest accruing each year and risking everything on a complete victory is flawed, from a strategery [Bush joke, Hiram] position. But that’s just the opinion of a no-longer-practicing attorney with no dog in the fight. Time will eventually reveal whether they were right to risk so much.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “North Mianus residents claim victory – I’m not so sure

  1. Helsa Poppin

    Why 18%? Is that compounded? What is the possible legal justification for such an extortionate rate? Funny how when it comes to the government’s own interests, they basically admit that they expect the value of money to erode radically over the short term . . .

    • christopherfountain

      My guess is that it’s set that high to encourage people to pay their taxes in a timely fashion – see, eg, IRS, taxes

  2. shoeless

    Should brokers make potential buyers aware of the forthcoming levy that will be required of them c/o the new sewer system? Of course the answer shoudl be a resounding “Yes”, but in the real world, one should expect that this inconveneient item will be “forgotten” in all the hub-bub over some fantastic, once-in-a lifetime opportunity to own some property.

  3. Michael

    You have it wrong. The Town is NOT paying 75% of the project. The Town is paying nothing, when in fact the Town Charter is quite clear that the Town is obligatedto pay for the main sewer lines, an dto pay a portion of the project because it benefited by having the TOWN OWNED North Mianus Pond cleaned up. There are numerous town dosuments stating that the project was done to protect and clean up the TOWN OWNED North Mianus Pond. The charter i s very clear that ALL property owners, including municipalities, must pay the share they benefit by. Please research your points before posting comments.

  4. JD

    Not to beat a dead horse, but Michael is right. Residents pay for 100% of the project, with 75% being divided evenly across all properties, and 25% being scaled according to assessment. The 25% reduction referenced in the article is just a coincidence–$23 million – 25% = approximately $17 million. If the $17 million number is accepted, then everyone’s tax will be reduced, but still in accordance with the 75/25 split.