Resident questions intentions with country club

Published 12:04 pm Saturday, August 1, 2015

During Monday evening’s board of supervisors meeting, Southampton County resident John Burchett asked for some clarity regarding a rumor he heard about discussions behind closed doors in the administration building.

“I hope they’re wrong, because, quite frankly, I got upset when I heard them,” he said.

What he was referencing was Cypress Cove Country Club’s recent property assessment, which was significantly lower than market value placed upon it in the past, as well as the board’s involvement in the process.

“I’ve talked to several people about this, and they feel the same way I do. When our land rent goes up, our cost goes up. We raise our dues. We don’t come to the county and ask for a tax break,” he said. “If the country club is having problems paying their taxes, they need to raise their fees and whatever they charge for their meals. They don’t need to come to the county for relief.”

Burchett said that he simply wanted to know whether the rumor had any validity. Chairman Dallas Jones confirmed that the request for a new property assessment occurred, but County Administrator Michael Johnson added that the board does not conduct the assessment itself.

“The correct answer is that this board does not assess property. This board has no authority to change the assessment process,” he said. “The Code of Virginia has a statute by which a person can request support to reduce their assessment, and that would be the process [Jones] is talking about.”

Burchett then asked whether the board could make a resolution to support or oppose the reassessment, and said he’s concerned with the way the process has been handled behind closed doors.

“There is a set way of doing things that they’re trying to bypass … I think the board needs to take a position on it, not just let it go” he said. “You don’t hear anything until somebody says, ‘Have you heard?’ It’s all hushed up, and it’s very disturbing to me.”

Supervisor Barry Porter was straightforward in his response, however, noting that the discussion took place in a closed session, therefore should have never been in the public eye, and that the same process would happen if Burchett or any other county property owner wanted to reassess their land.

“For us to oppose it, we’d have to do so in the court, and we’d incur legal fees to do that,” Porter said, noting that the county would be ordered to grand relief and pay both parties’ attorney fees if the judge did not rule in its favor. “This is in the court’s hands, and the court will rule judiciously.”

Porter told The Tidewater News in a separate interview that the country club was refinancing a loan when it found out that a commercial appraisal was required.

“The appraisal was significantly less than the county assessment that was done several years ago,” he said. “It was almost twice as much, so why would they pay those taxes?”

The country club notified the county, which then asked an independent assessor to appraise the land. He agreed that the old assessment was high, but also that commercial appraisal was a bit low. Now, the court will take the two assessments, and determine how much the property is worth.

“What we have done is gone back to our assessor and got his recommendation and presented that through our attorney to the court to get a fair disposition … You can do the same thing,” Porter said. “If you want to go out and hire an appraiser to appraise your land and then you can petition. We’ll have our appraiser analyze your appraisal, if you want to spend the money to go to court. Any citizen in the county can follow the same procedure. There’s no bypass. This is written in law. It’s not something that’s being done back door or inappropriately.”