Sullivan Select Board honors couple’s appraisal

SULLIVAN — The Sullivan Select Board unanimously approved a motion at its Sept. 13 meeting to honor an appraisal of $135,000 for tax years 2019 and 2020 for a Route 1 property owned by Deb and James Knowlton.

The decision follows a years-long disagreement over the value of the Knowltons’ property, which started when the couple filed a property tax abatement request alleging the town’s $479,200 assessment was unfair.

The Select Board initially denied that appeal, so the Knowltons took their request to the Hancock County Commissioners, who also denied it. The couple then filed suit in Hancock County Superior Court.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson ruled in favor of the Knowltons and remanded the case to the commissioners to determine the fair market value of the property for the 2019 tax year.

At a special meeting Aug. 31, the Sullivan board met in executive session to discuss litigation.

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the board discussed how the town would have to pay the fee for the appraisal that the Knowltons incurred when they hired Cathy Phillips of Fairmarket Appraisals in Mount Desert.

Additionally, Select Board member Roger Wakefield raised issue with Anderson’s decision, which in part critiqued the valuation method used by Bob Gingras, an assessor with Parker Appraisal Co., who is responsible for the town’s assessments.

The method “used by the town relying upon multiplying the length of mudflat frontage by $800 fails to consider other important factors relevant to fair market value, including the size of the property and perhaps the desirability of location,” Anderson wrote in his July 29 decision.

Wakefield said that Gingras did take other factors into account when assessing the property and that by his calculations Gingras had assessed the Knowlton property’s mudflat frontage at $700 per foot.

The board agreed it should further discuss the matter with Gingras.

In other business, Wakefield made a motion for a second time that the board draft a letter in opposition to the salmon farm proposed by American Aquafarms, a Norwegian-backed company that is looking to raise Atlantic salmon in ocean pens at two 60-acre sites in Frenchman Bay.

Wakefield made the initial request at the board’s Aug. 16 meeting, when Chairman Michael Pinkham said there would be time to voice public comment in the application process and that if town officials spoke outside of the application process the town could be a “target for a lawsuit.”

At the Sept. 13 meeting, the board voted against sending an opposition letter, but town officials will inquire about the project’s application status with the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Officials also will plan a public meeting to solicit feedback on the project and what the town’s role should be.

In other developments, Wakefield notified the board that the town is slated to receive over the next two years $128,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act but that the town needs to apply for the funds first.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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