MARTINSBURG - Sixteen owners of a 320-acre lot in Gerrardstown have filed an appeal of the 2006 tax assessment that caused taxes on the property to increase 300,000 percent in one year.

The owners of a community association known as Broomgrass state in an appeal filed March 24 in Berkeley Circuit Court that their tax hike is unreasonable and served the appeal on Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely, Berkeley County Commission President Howard Strauss, Berkeley County Attorney Norwood Bentley III and Berkeley County Assessor Preston Gooden.

"Complainants represent that the over 300-percent increase is erroneous, unjustified and clearly out of line with assessments on adjacent properties owned by others and should be adjusted to a level consistent with an appraisal completed in April of 2005 which was determined to be $40,000 per lot," the appeal says.

The group of Purple Turtle, LLC; Joseph Atkins and Dana Grabiner; Mary A. Melnyk; Linda Lloyd; Ryan McCarthy and Erica B. Patthoff; David Springer and Judith Springer; Joseph McNamara and Donna McNamara; Gwenda Glesman and Paul Scibner; William Donahoe and Wendy Donahoe; and Kenneth Reitzig and Elizabeth Reitzig recently brought the issue before the Berkeley County Commission, which upheld the assessment.

The 2005 market value of the entire 320 acres was $40,900. In 2006, the assessor determined it to be $3,072,000. The 2005 tax on the entire 320 acres was $292. In 2006, the assessor determined it to be $40,900.

Broomgrass gives each owner one acre to build a home on and a share in the rest of the 304 acres, which are used for farming. Broomgrass' hope was that the owners would pay a farm use tax instead of a residential tax.

"The purchasers paid more than the true value of the land to be a part of the farm community," the appeal says. "The farmland itself is also being taxed and therefore Complainants are being subjected to double taxation at inflated valuation."

The group is represented by Kenneth Barton of Steptoe and Johnson's Martinsburg office. Judge David Saunders has been assigned the case.

Berkeley Circuit Court case number 06-C-198

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