Commercial property value cut 20 percent

The value of commercial property along the Highway 395 corridor was cut by a fifth by county assessors.

Assessor Doug Sonnemann said the county looked at the value of leases rather than sales of property because there haven't been many sales.

"We applied the reduction up and down Highway 395, in the industrial park at the airport and in Carson Valley and Clear Creek plazas," he said.

While downtown Minden and Gardnerville were cut by 20 percent, areas around the airport went down by a third.

"We went door-to-door to see what's empty and how much people were paying in leases, and we applied that," he said.

The assessor determines the taxable value of private property in the county. That value then determines the assessed value, which is 35 percent.

Some petitioners seeking lowered property values said they had vacancy rates of up to 75 percent in appealing to the county Board of Equalization.

One place where substantial cuts in value were made was in development property, where values were cut in half in places.

Owner Syncon Homes had two projects before the board that were in foreclosure, including Valley Vista phase 7, whose 36 parcels had been auctioned on Jan. 20, making the owner's request moot.

Syncon also sought a reduction of value in the 157 lots of Monterra phase 2, claiming that the property is in foreclosure.

Assessor Dion Etchegoyhen said in her report that the current market is very soft for this type of development.

"At this time, it is difficult to market both low and high density properties," she said.

The Board of Equalization halved the value of the land from $2.35 million to $1.17 million.

Syncon sought the reduction in value of 100 Monterra lots located next to Minden Elementary School.

The company has gone from building 3,300-4,500-square-foot homes to 1,800-2,700 square foot homes, similar in quality to La Costa in Minden, according to the assessor's office.

Even so, there were three sales at Monterra in 2009 and none so far in 2010. There are four listings on the existing inventory and no new homes under construction.

Taxable value went from $37,500 per lot to $25,000. The five lots listed that belong to purchasers also had their taxable value reduced to $50,000.

From Minden to northern Douglas County developers of projects are feeling the pinch from the economy.

Developers sought a reduction of land value on Clear Creek's project to $5 million.

"The project should be considered as an overall parcel," according to Syncon Homes' Andrew W. Mitchell.

Costs to develop are estimated at much higher than the finished value would be.

"In the current economic climate there is a very limited chance of getting financing or bonding to do the improvements," Mitchell wrote in the request. "We're requesting that the property be reverted back to ag until we're able to develop."

Clear Creek Ranch, which consists of eight parcels totaling 530 acres that had been approved for 163 cottage homes and 221 lots at the upper end of Clear Creek, saw a decrease in value.

The taxable value of the property was reduced from $11.65 million to $5.15 million. The entire subdivision's taxable value is now $6.23 million.

The newly completed 191-acre Clear Creek Golf Course was valued at $1.74 million.

Infrastructure costs that include building a bridge across the Carson River will preclude development of John Serpa's Ranchos project, according to a petition to review taxable valuation of the project.

The 542-acre project is located near the southern end of the Gardnerville Ranchos.

One of the potential requirements is that Serpa build a bridge across the Carson River to Highway 395 near Ruhenstroth to access the development.

Assessor's agreed with Serpa that the property would be costly to develop.

Sonnemann recommended that the value of the land be reduced from $11,168 an acre to $5,000 per acre or $2.7 million for the entire project.

The continued decline in the gaming win at Lake Tahoe resulted in a reduction of property value for the Horizon Hotel in Stateline.

Managers told the county the casino's table games have been shut down, along with 60 percent of its slot machines and one hotel tower. The hotel received a reduction in its taxable value of $3.135 million from $29.8 million to $26.67 million.

Schulz Partners, which owns the home at 716 Lincoln Highway, said the county is assessing the home as lakefront property, when there is a common area between the home and Tahoe.

The property is valued at $2.067 million. Based on the sale of a home in Lincoln Park for $4.22 million, the assessor recommended leaving the property value alone.

While Schulz property remained the same, another homeowner did receive decrease in valuation, because an access to the common area runs along one side of their property.

In 2005, the Nevada Legislature enacted a tax cap that permitted property taxes to increase at a rate of 3 percent per year for a primary residence or low-cost rental and 8 percent per year for any other property. The tax cap was designed to prevent the large increases in property values from increasing residents' taxes by a similar amount.

But the Legislature applied the cap to the taxes paid the previous year, not the assessed value. While the assessed value continued to increase by larger amounts, the amount on homeowners' tax bills only went up 3 percent.

Homes built after the law was passed were subject to being taxed on their full value and didn't benefit from the 3 percent cap.

Owners of homes that were in place when the law was passed may not see a decrease in their taxes. Owners of newer homes may see some relief.

Homeowners whose appeals were denied by the county board may appeal to the state Board of Equalization.


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