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Law to Make Challenging Property Assessments Easier

February 28, 2012

By Leah Small
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill to help Virginians in appealing property assessments on wetlands is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Property owners are already allowed to appeal assessments to their local board of assessors, but House Bill 80 would require that the National Wetlands Inventory Map be considered in the appeal. The Senate last week joined the House in unanimously approving the measure.

“There really was no independent arbiter local governments had to consider in the determination,” said Delegate Robert Orrock, R-Thornburg, the sponsor of the bill. “The landowner can now bring in [the inventory map] and say, ‘Hey, I’m not the one that is saying that this is wetlands; the federal government has said it has met their definition.’ ”

The legislation has made Caroline County’s commissioner of revenue, Sharon Carter, and her office the subject of scrutiny.

While the bill does not directly refer to the county, Orrock said he received “anecdotal evidence” that about half of Caroline’s wetlands were incorrectly classified according to the National Geological Survey.

According to an assessment by the Blue Ridge Appraisal Co. in 2010, only 16,600 acres of the 35,000 acres of wetlands listed in the county’s comprehensive plan are classified as such.

Orrock said he was in touch with Carter and the Virginia Commissioners of Revenue Association throughout the legislative process. He said they did not express opposition “concerning the language or intent of the measure.”

The House approved HB 80 on a 100-0 vote on Feb. 2. The Senate passed the bill, 38-0, on Friday. The measure now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell.
This CNS article was published by news organizations that include: The Virginia Gazette and Aol News.