Selectmen Agree to Settlement Over Sam’s Club Abatement

By Alex Malm

The Board of Selectmen heard a proposal to agree to settle a dispute between the town and Sam’s Club over an abatement decision. It was explained by Chief Assessor, Jim Michaud, that the company appealed the abatement denial decision for 2022, to the Board of Tax & Land Appeals. At that point, he said “they don’t order you to settle they order you to talk about settling.”
“I join Attorney, Dave LeFevre, in recommending that the Board of Selectmen approve the attached settlement on the above referenced property,” Michaud wrote in a memo to the Board of Selectmen. “This property had an assessed value of $14,553,400 for the 2022 property tax year and, with that year’s median assessment ratio of .942, the implied market value of the property was $15,449,469, approx. $114 per SF for the 135,792 SF property.”
He said “the value of $114 a square foot for the property is not believed to be sustainable in a tax tribunal such as the BTLA. The key figure that brings us to the point of settlement is the low assessment ratio, brought about by sustained high market values and sales of residential properties.”
“The settlement agreement, attached, stipulates that the 2024 assessed value will decrease from $14,553,400 down to $12,806,000 an implied market value per SF of $107 per SF (using an estimated ratio of .88 for the 2023 tax year). This is a proposed reduction of $ 1,747,400 in assessed value, an approx. 12% reduction,” Michaud wrote in a memo.
Michaud said that as part of the “conditional part of the settlement, the taxpayer foregoes any abatement money for 2022 and 2023, NO, zero abatement monies being paid out.”
“This agreement also amends the existing Wal-Mart, 254 Lowell Rd., property settlement terms, favorable to the town, in that it bars both the Wal-Mart property, as well as the Sam’s Club property, from appealing their settled assessment values for 2023 forward until the next revaluation, as long as our assessment ratio stays above 80%,” Michaud wrote in a memo. “The current Wal-Mart agreement only bars Wal- Mart from appealing if our ratio stays above 90%, and we are already anticipated to be below that (approx. 88%) for the 2023 property tax year, the attached agreement modifies that in the town’s favor.”
Michaud said one of the benefits of agreeing to the settlement is that they risk avoiding any further legal litigation, and the fees associated with it. It was also noted by Michaud they would not be able to appeal the 2023 assessed values or for future years, “as long as the assessment does not change from $12,600,000, with protection in the instance of property construction/destruction and holding until the next town-wide reassessment.”
He said, “For example, if they were to bring the 2022 and 2023 appeals to trial, there is no guarantee that Wal-Mart wouldn’t take them to the Board of Tax & Land Appeals in future years, which then cost more for legal fees.”
“The settlement proposal is recommended as being in the best interest of the town as it is proactive in nature and has substantiated financial benefits (avoidance risk) to the town,” Michaud said.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the settlement agreement.

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