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Judge Rules In Township Dispute

Posted at: 03/18/2013 6:50 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The latest chapter has been written in an on-going dispute between the city of Austin and some residents of Lansing township.

The property owners were concerned about the cost of becoming part of the city, and now, a judge has weighed-in.

At the heart of the issue were assessment numbers from the city of Austin that homeowners claimed were much too high. They took the matter to court, and now the verdict is in.

"It's very bittersweet," Lansing township property owner John Howe told us.

Four years ago, part of Lansing township was annexed into the city of Austin, with a requirement that the homes hook up to the city sewer system. but about two dozen property owners filed suit, claiming that the assessments were unfairly high.

"There's a state law that says you cannot assess more than the special benefit you bring to the property. The special benefit is defined as the increase in market value."

Eventually, property owner John Howe was one of about two dozen people who ended up challenging the assessments in court.

"They had an appraiser that said they increased my lot value 15-thousand dollars. A the very same time mower county assessor said my lot went down from 8-thousand in value to 54-hundred," John Howe explained.

"An what was really disappointing was I and several other homeowners wanted to mediate with the city and they weren't willing to do that, so we ended up in court.

Judge Donald Rysavy ruled that the special benefit didn't meet the assessment. He ordered that the *old* assessment be set aside, and a new one be made.

"We're willing to pay something, but it's turned into a very unfortunate deal, and it's a waste of taxpayer's money," John Howe said.

City officials had no comment on the judge's ruling, but did tell us that staff will be meeting with members of the city council to determine what to do next.

Two other property owners are pursuing their own challenges against their assessments, and another group of about 20 property owners are pursuing a challenge as a group.