Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mexican Restaurant Value Increases, But Not Property Taxes

Although Hendry Property Owners Got Hit Big This Year, Restaurant Escaped The Tax Increase

LABELLE, FLORIDA -- After three and one-half years since the previous sale, the restaurant property at 1100 South State Road 80 in LaBelle has changed hands and the new buyers have paid a record price, although the Hendry Tax Appraiser's office still values it at an extremely low number, well below recent sales prices, and even well below an April 2002 sales price.  The 1177 square foot "El Tejano" restaurant building on the west side of SR29 just south of Cowboy Way is only valued at $68,250 as of January 2006, by the Hendry Tax Appraiser. The appraiser's office sets the taxable values each year as of January 1.

But, the property was sold this week to Beleven Properties LLC For $165,000. The seller was Delacruz Properties, Inc.  Both companies are located in Lee county. Guadalupe and Mellissa Delacruz's company had paid $125,000 in March of 2004, so presumably the tax value set for the restaurant property should have been at least $125,000 this year, and possibly much more as property values in Hendry skyrocketed.  The property sold for $125,000 also way back in April, 2002.

The Hendry tax appraiser's office didn't miss a beat in raising most everyone's property value this year.  Thousands of Port LaBelle lot owners saw their lot values jump in tax appraised value by a factor of more than three. Lots valued at $11,000 in 2005 are now hit with property taxes on a tax appraiser's value of $34,000 for 2006.  Not all property owners are taking the huge assessment increases without a fight though.

CHL, Inc., a local home builder and major Port LaBelle property owner has filed over 1000 petitions with the Value Adjustment Board this year, to try to convince the board that their assessments are set too high by the Hendry Tax Appraiser.  It will be an uphill battle though, as the Board members are comprised of two County Commissioners, and a School Board member, who obviously have a vested interest in keeping assessments and thus taxes as high as possible to run their respective government entities. In addition, the Florida Statutes are clear that a petitioner has to have overwhelming evidence that the tax assessment is too high, and not an easy task for anyone, especially CHL, Inc. who had a major hand in raising real estate prices over the last two years as they bought,sold and financed thousands of Port LaBelle quarter acre lots at higher and higher prices.

The Value Adjustment Board hearings begin next week at the Hendry Courthouse.

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