Pelican Point property assessments argued

Aaron E. Looney
This home is among many for sale in the Pelican Point subdivision south of Gonzales. Numerous homeowners in the neighborhood contested their recent property assessments before the Ascension Parish Council, which sat as a board of review for assessments Thursday. Some homeowners claimed that houses in the neighborhood are not selling because of the current economic trends, which affects the assessments of neighboring properties.

Numerous residents of the Pelican Point golfing community appeared before the Ascension Parish Council Thursday to contest their recent property assessments, with many claiming that the assessments were too high even when their property value had dropped.

The council sat as a board of review for the 2008 property assessments made by Parish Assessor Renee Mire Michel’s office.

A total of 24 appeals came before the council, with all but one coming from Pelican Point. The remaining appeal came from the Mississippi owners of the Terra fertilizer plant located outside of Donaldsonville.

The council voted to deny all appeals with little discussion, despite motions by Councilman Kent Schexnaydre in some cases to change the assessed value of some homes based upon evidence presented by the homeowners.

Prior to the review of appeals, Michel told the board that state law mandated that she reassess all property in the parish between 2006 and 2007 based on sales. She said she did so by doing a uniform mass evaluation of properties.

Former Parish President Ronnie Hughes, a resident of Pelican Point’s Greens neighborhood, told the council that he did not understand why all the homes in The Greens were assessed at the same rate of $140 per square foot.

“Uniformity is fine, but Hitler had uniformity,” Hughes told the council.

Hughes called the lump reassessment “grossly unfair,” adding that different lots in the subdivision sell for varied amounts dependent on their location in proximity to golf courses and lakes and drainage ditches.

Hughes also said that smaller homes in The Greens, which caters mainly to retired people, were assessed at higher rates than all other areas of the development except River Winds, a section which includes more upscale, expensive homes. Hughes said that some homes that are much larger than those located in The Greens were valued at around $115 a square foot.

“Your job is to be fair and not to pass the buck to the State Tax Commission,” Hughes said. “It’s easy to punt.

“Politically, you are better off to go along with the assessor, but you know in your heart that’s not right,” Hughes told the council.

Michel said that she had appraisers from the Louisiana Tax Commission followed her initial assessments to decide the property values in Pelican Point. She said the LTC appraisers valued homes in The Greens at $145 per square foot, but that she was able to lower the rate down to $140 per square foot.

“We found all assessments were fair, but not all were equal,” said Michel, who added that she “leaned lower than the state” on all differences.

Barrie Monks, who also lives in The Greens, told the council that the last house that sold in his neighborhood sold for $90 per square foot, but his home’s assessment came in at $140 per square foot. He said that nearby commercial development has lessened the property value of both he and his neighbors’ homes and that they should not be compared to the rest of Pelican Point.

Monks also said that his house has some “oddities” in that is located by a ditch and his garage is too small to park inside, but that his home’s assessed value was the same of those located near one of the development’s golf courses or lakes.

Beverly Barre asked that all properties in The Greens be reassessed, adding that her home’s proximity to a drainage ditch does not lend itself to such a high assessment.

Michel said that she cannot control the current economic woes that have affected the country, especially those in the real estate industry.

“I have no control over the economic future of our nation or gas prices or any of that,” Michel said.

“As always, the assessor’s office will continue to do the best job for all the people of the parish. If there are sales showing lower prices, I can always reassess next year.”

Michel also said that homeowners can appeal their assessments to the Louisiana Tax Authority and, If they are still not satisfied with the decision, they can appeal to the 23rd Judicial District Court.