August 23, 2006
Southampton residents have reached their boiling point over a reassessment they feel was botched and sent their property values skyrocketing.
They're mad as hell, and three, at least, are not going to take it anymore.
On July 28, Fabian Palomino, an attorney who represents Southampton Town residents Guy Parisi, Claire Vegliante and Barry Wein, filed an action against the assessor of the Town of Southampton.
The purpose of the action, according to Palomino, is to "declare the final assessments of residential properties in the Town of Southampton filed on July 3, 2006 invalid and to enjoin their use as a basis for fixing and collecting real property taxes for the 2006-2007 tax year."
The goal, said Palomino, is to put the brakes on what many feel was an over-the-top unfair reassessment that focused only on residential and not commercial properties in town. "We're hoping to stop them from being able to use these assessments for next year's taxes," said Palomino. "They're trying to get ahead of the curve a little. Prices are dropping," he said about the town.
Parisi and Wein own property in Remsenburg, and Vegliante in Westhampton Dunes.
Because the assessment will be used to determine the tax each property owner will have to pay for the 2006-2007 tax year, the first half of which comes due on December 1, Palomino said time is of the essence. "It's a simple question of law. We'd like to get it resolved, put it on a fast track before the bills have to go out," he said.
Although no monetary damages are being sought, the plaintiffs seek what they deem an equitable resolution. "All we want is a fair playing field," said Palomino.
At the heart of the suit is that while conducting the reassessment the town reassigned values for residential but not commercial properties. "For tax purposes, "the terms 'revaluation,' 'reassessment,' and 'update' are not used in their ordinary meaning," according to the summons.
Because former sole tax assessor Brenda Noa did not assess all local properties, but instead, assessed only residential properties, the suit states that "the final assessment roll she filed did not attain compliance with the standards required and is therefore invalid."
"I don't think it's a frivolous suit at all," said Palomino. "If you look at the evolution of the statute, at one time they did permit the local towns to assess less than all the property of the town. But they kept amending it; they changed the definition and said you have to include all of the property in town."
Palomino plans to file a motion for summary judgment after the town files its response. "There's no issue of facts to try. It's just a pure issue of law to be heard by a judge," he said.
Southampton Town Attorney Garrett W. Swenson, Jr. did not return requests for comment by press time.