Our office and brokers have received many calls with questions regarding the newly received property value assessments.
According to the San Juan County Assessor’s website “State law requires that assessors appraise all taxable property within the county at 100% of its true and fair market value, according to the highest and best use of the property. Fair market value, or true value, is the amount of money that a willing and unobligated buyer is willing to pay a willing and unobligated seller.
“Each year, the County is responsible for reviewing the values of approximately 20,000 parcels. Whether you have purchased your property recently or not, the Assessor will still evaluate your property on an annual basis. These annual evaluations are based on research of sales of properties within the past year. For example, if 2016 sales are available, they are used to calculate the 2017 assessed values.
By State law, members of the Assessor’s office are re- quired to conduct a physical inspection of the property every 6 years. If new construction occurs, then this new construction will be physically inspected annually until construction is completed. These physical inspections are taken into consideration when updating the current assessed value.
Once the valuation is established, your taxes are calculated based on a tax rate. Many factors determine property tax rates, the amount of property tax due on com- parable properties will vary throughout a county. The three main factors that determine the tax rate include: various combinations of taxing districts in different areas of the county, budget amounts for each taxing district, and voter-approved special levies and bonds.
Key point: these tax rates vary year to year, depending upon the County annual budget. If assessed values go up (or down) it does not necessarily mean that your taxes will go up (or down).
If you disagree with your new property assessed value, there is an appeal process via the Board of Equalization that you may undergo. Keep in mind that you must reg- ister the appeal within 30 days of the original filing of the new valuation of your property.
The San Juan County Assessor’s website is an excellent resource for additional information:
John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner
AFFORDABLE HOUSING — WHAT COULD BE DONE
This column is the second on the affordable housing issue. We all know what is needed, but it seems we don’t have a clear vision of how to accomplish it.
Last time I mentioned an affordable housing solution on San Juan Island that appears to have served that island well since its development in 1982. It’s called The Oaks. Located in a rural area and buffered from surrounding properties, most Islanders don’t even think about it and some don’t even know it exists.
In a time of less restrictive zoning regulations, the developer acquired 7 contiguous parcels of rural land totaling approx. 40 acres. They installed streets, sidewalks and utilities serving 76 home sites for double wide manufactured homes. The land is leased to the homeowners who own the units, which can be resold by owners moving off-island, or to other properties. Sales prices have ranged from around $100—$200K depending on location and size of the homes. The property lease includes water, sewer and road maintenance such that the area appears well maintained. There are relatively few sales of these homes because turnover of residents is low.
Today, due to County zoning regulations, it would be almost impossible to do an Oaks. Yet we can see it works and addresses affordable housing needs, at least on San Juan Island by being a product that naturally falls into the right price point. Our County needs to encourage affordable housing development by creating new zoning regulations to allow projects like this to occur today. Of course, the devil is in the details, and zoning modification would have to include safeguards such that neighbors would not be adversely affected.
Orcas Island has areas of forested and/or buffered land where thoughtfully-designed high-density development could occur on otherwise low-density land. This would be an excellent topic for each of us to address with our Commissioners. The time may now be right for such a discussion.
Since I started this column, I have received a fair amount of thoughtful feedback and I encourage you to give me a call or drop by to say hello and discuss any Island issue you feel is important. My intention is to make this column thought provoking and helpful in some small way.
John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner