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.