Middletown mulling template for reservoir lands assessment

By Abigail Sanford
The Town of Middletown Board of Trustees held their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, August 14.

The main topic of the meeting was a presentation by Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) attorney Timothy Cox who discussed the Tax Legislation Avoidance Program that the CWC wants to implement in order to save the Town of Middletown, and other municipalities, from expensive litigation with the City of New York over the assessment of the city’s reservoir properties.

For many years, towns in the watershed have had disagreements with the city over tax assessments on land that is under the city’s reservoirs. In these cases, the city has always felt that the appraisals were too high and has taken the individual towns to court on multiple occasions.
Cox said that while the towns have always won their cases, the decisions have been based on technicalities, creating no precedent for deciding the values of these reservoir lands.

Under the terms of the Tax Legislation Avoidance Program, the two sides would devise a template to utilize as a standard means of assessing the lands under the reservoir. Cox said this method of assessing these unique reservoir parcels will end the expensive legal challenges that have historically been waged over these properties.

Used for sewer plants
Middletown and other municipalities recently entered into similar template system for valuing the city’s sewage treatment plants in the watershed.

The board agreed to look over the details of the Tax Legislation Avoidance Program at its next workshop and inform the CWC its decision of whether to participate.

The board also appointed New Kingston resident Joyce Gray as new member of the town’s planning board. The board then named Sue Finch as chairperson of the planning board to take over for John Sanford who resigned in July after 20 years on the board.

The last big news of the night was the board’s acceptance of the resignation of Town of Middletown Attorney Carey Wagner. The board then abolished the position of town attorney and agreed to hire John Fairbairn as the attorney to represent the town on a per diem basis. Wagner’s resignation will be effective on August 31.