City challenges property assessments in Shandaken

By Jay Braman Jr.
The Town of Shandaken was informed this month that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has filed a lawsuit challenging this year’s tax assessments of parts of the wastewater systems in Pine Hill and Chichester.

The DEP, which has owned and operated a large system in Pine Hill and a much smaller one in Chichester for over 80 years, just settled a different lawsuit over the Pine Hill system two years ago, getting a full one-third reduction in the assessed value of the massive wastewater plant from $15.4 million down to $10.3 million. That settlement also includes a template that would be used in the future to determine the property’s value.

But, what about the pipes that run under the streets to the plant?
Turns out that section of infrastructure was never assessed. Stanley said the Town of Shandaken began to do so last year after learning during the lawsuit that the city was not paying for it.
At the August meeting of the Shandaken Town Board, Supervisor Robert Stanley said he is looking into whether or not this new lawsuit represents a violation of trust between the DEP and watershed towns.

DEP has over the years filed many lawsuits against several towns over assessment values.
But that account got drained as the city filed lawsuit after lawsuit throughout the region and is now empty, with Shandaken using the last $140,000 of it fighting over the Pine Hill plant’s value two years ago, meaning that the cost of fighting this new lawsuit will fall on Shandaken’s taxpayers.