|Land values shock owners in Manastash -
Landowners take concerns to assessor
Daily Record Online
A group of Manastash Creek Canyon landowners are exploring how
to cap skyrocketing property valuations through a statewide
But they also are seeking relief from the Kittitas County
Property owners in the canyon eight to 11 miles southwest of
Ellensburg received revaluation notices from the Assessor’s
Office in the first week of June. The revaluations, in many cases,
showed a doubling and a tripling of assessed valuation.
Nearly 40 landowners met Friday with Assessor Iris Rominger and
other Assessor’s Office staff members to air their concerns and
ask questions. They are concerned fast-rising valuations will
increase their tax bill, making it harder to live on their land.
Verna O’Claire, 70, owns about 45 acres in the canyon. She
said 41 acres of that parcel doubled in value. Another parcel
under 4 acres next to the creek rose in value from $3,900 to
$39,000, she said.
“You can imagine how outrageous this was when we first got
the notices,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s very
distressing for all of us in the canyon. We are worried about the
future. Will the values just keep going up and up?”
She said the 41-acre parcel increased in value from $41,290 to
$90,000 but is steeply sloping terrain and “can’t be reached
now unless you have a helicopter.” O’Claire considers the
acreage unable to be developed. She said the 4-acre parcel, to her
knowledge, is in the Manastash Creek floodplain and can’t be
used for a homesite.
She plans to meet with a county appraiser today to review her
valuations and, possibly, receive an adjustment. Many other
landowners are doing the same thing, she said.
Rominger said appraisers revalue about a fourth of the
county’s 26,000 taxable parcels each year. This year’s
revaluation area involved lands outside irrigation districts and
included rural farm and recreation lands and property for homes.
About 6,200 revaluation notices for 2002 were mailed May 31,
she said, and will be the basis for property tax bills going out
in February 2003.
“I can sympathize with the property owners,” Rominger said.
“Other areas of the county have struggled with this same trend
in the past few years. We welcome working with individual property
owners with their specific concerns.”
Rominger said state law requires the Assessor’s Office to
revalue property at 100 percent of its fair market value. These
values are determined by the sale prices of comparable properties
in the area or similar properties in other parts of the county.
The last time the Manastash Creek Canyon area was revalued was
1998, she said. Rominger expects many of the owners to file
appeals of their valuations to the Kittitas County Board of
Equalization. The board, which starts hearing appeals in July, has
the authority to review valuations and change them or deny them.
Appeals after that must enter civil court.
“Some areas of the county have had somewhat lower valuations
in the past few years because market activity was low,” Rominger
said. “We are now seeing more sales of this type of property in
Will Baumann said he attended the Friday meeting and
represented his family’s property in the canyon, which includes
Two of the parcels have homes, one of which is the home of his
father, Haldon Baumann, 75, who has owned the property since 1964.
Baumann has lived full-time in the canyon for 12 years. Will
Baumann has lived in the Kittitas Valley since 1992.
“We understand the Assessor’s Office is required to do
their valuations by the state law,” Will Baumann, 43, said.
“But there is a lot of latitude in how the provisions are
applied and interpreted. We think there can be changes.”
Baumann said he would like to see the Assessor’s Office
develop specific, standardized criteria to revalue land, taking
into more consideration the slope and typography of parcels.
Exact locations of floodplains in relation to buildable areas
of parcels also must be determined, he said, knowing homes can’t
be built in those areas.
One of the Baumann family parcels went from $5,430 in value to
$22,630 and another went from $54,890 to $79,810.
“The bigger picture here is we need a change in state law so
people are not priced out of their homes,” he said.
The group of canyon landowners is exploring what it takes to
get a statewide initiative approved and placed before voters that
would put a cap on rising valuations. Baumann said limiting the
value increases to 10 percent a year would be reasonable.
Bob Stowell, 68, another canyon landowner, said a statewide
initiative is a good idea but would require connecting to a much
bigger citizen organization.
“We are kind of small potatoes here,” he said. “It takes
a lot of money and a lot of organization to take on a change in
Glenn Myers, senior appraiser in the Assessor’s Office, said
sales of similar canyon properties in the Cooke, Colockum and
Caribou canyons were used in some of the revaluations, as well as
some sales in the Manastash Canyon.
He said some people have subdivided their buildable lands and
this, too, increases their value. Some lands that were determined
four years ago to not be able to be used for homesites have since
been found to be buildable, he said.
“All this can increase the values on lands that haven’t
changed in a long time,” Myers said.
He said doubling and tripling of values on some parcels in the
Easton area also took place.