Sandy Lewis, center, has filed a complaint in court against the town of Essex over the assessed value of two of the six parcels that make up the Lewis Family Farm there.
The property dispute between Salim “Sandy” Lewis and the Town of Essex is getting closer to either a settlement or a court date.
Lewis, who has filed lawsuits against the town contesting his 2011 and 2012 assessments for property he owns that are part of Lewis Family Farm on the Whallons Bay Road, said he met just after Christmas with his legal team to discuss the case.
“Joe Brennan said to me that if the town comes down to our number, then we have to settle,” Lewis said.
Brennan and Martina Baillie are representing Lewis on the matter, which is scheduled to come before Judge Richard Meyer.
The number, roughly $2.3 million, was an assessed value for the property that was reached through the services of Donald Fisher, who was brought in by both the town and Lewis to assess the property.
Lewis and Baillie had previously filed a pair of grievances in the town about the assessments on the two parcels: a field crops parcel of 1,111 acres assessed at $6,033,190; and a 5.2-acre family residence assessed at $412,900.
The grievances were both taken into consideration by the town’s zoning board of appeals, which cut the first parcel’s assessment to $4,811,112 while leaving the second parcel’s value the same.
Lewis said that he and his counsel have received correspondence which could lead to a settlement in the litigation and sets forth terms, which includes a reduction in the field property to roughly $2,158,100 for the 2011 assessment and roughly $2,348,168 million for the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 assessment rolls. It also drops the family residence to $129,500 from 2011 through 2015.
“This sets forth a version of an agreement,” Lewis said. “But I do not believe that the letter represents a firm offer from the town, and I will only officially respond to a firm offer.”
Lewis said that while he felt the assessment reached by Fisher was also too high, he would live by those numbers because they were the ones that were submitted to the courts.
Essex Town Supervisor Sharon Boisen said she would continue not to comment about any litigation the town may be in. When the suit was first filed, Boisen had said she was hopeful the town could reach a settlement.
“I would always hope that we could come to a mutual agreement before we go into court in any legal matter,” Boisen said. “That’s the best case. It would be great not to need all of the money that has been budgeted for legal expenses.”
Lewis continued to voice his frustration over the assessments and how he felt they were too high.
“They have been taxing us to oblivion and we trusted this town,” Lewis said. “Well we don’t anymore. Joe and Martina are going to sit down with this and get the language correct with McNamara. At the end of the day, we will go back to the town with something that is equivalent to those numbers.”
Lewis has also said in the past that they were interested in a settlement to avoid court, but he added if the matter were to be sent to the court, then he felt it would be precedent setting.
“They are taxing us on grain bins and three-sided buildings and they are not supposed to be able to,” Lewis said. “The thing is, they are getting this wrong across the entire state. If (Judge) Meyer takes this case, then I feel that it will be even more important than the APA case.”