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Marietta Town Board of Review hears tax assessment appeals
Based on Roth Feeder Pigs II hog CAFO
Marietta BOR_three petitioners
MARIETTA TOWNSHIP residents, from left, Jude Hartwick, Ken Cornish and Eric Pauer attended the Marietta Township Board of Review meeting to appeal their property tax assessment. The three expressed that the Roth Feeder Pigs II hog CAFO need not be operational for their property values to be negatively affected.

MARIETTA TOWNSHIP - Six citizens attended the Board of Review meeting of the Marietta Town Board on Monday, Nov. 14, to appeal their tax assessments. The four citizens who requested 13-percent reductions in their assessment made the case that because the Livestock Facility Siting Permit for the planned Roth Feeder Pigs II hog CAFO has been approved by Crawford County, their property values have decreased.

Bob Madwig of Holloway Appraisal Service, joined chairman Teddy Beinborn, and supervisors Reggie Lomas and Sheila Zinkle, and town clerk Clifford Monroe at the meeting. The four citizens making appeals were Bill Holt, Jude Hartwick, Ken Cornish and Eric Pauer. Kathleen Tigerman and Carl Schlecht were also in attendance.

Holloway Appraisal Service provides assessor services for the towns of Eastman, Marietta, Seneca and Ferryville in Crawford County.

In all four cases brought before them, the assessor recommended no changes at this time, and the board voted unanimously against making changes in the citizen’s assessments.

“The Town of Marietta is currently undergoing a revaluation process based on the township being out of compliance according to the State Department of Revenue (DOR),” Madwig told the group. “The state has stepped in because it has been 12 years since properties in the township were revalued (normal is every five-to-six years), and the increases of 35-40 percent are mandatory.”

Madwig said that he understands the residents frustration about the Roth Feeder Pigs II hog CAFO that has been permitted but not yet built, and would be happy to work with the citizens after the CAFO is up and running.

“I can’t act now because Roth hasn’t even broken ground for the facility,” Madwig said. “I’m not allowed to speculate in advance of the facility beginning operations – right now, property values have nothing to do with the CAFO.”

Marietta BOR_Bob Madwig
BOB MADWIG of Holloway Appraisal Service is the assessor for the Town of Marietta. Madwig was present Monday night at the town Board of Review meeting, and heard petitions from four town residents requesting a 13-percent reduction in their property taxes due to county approval of a Livestock Facility Siting Permit for the Roth Feeder Pigs II hog CAFO in the township.

Madwig said that he would be happy to work with the property owners after the CAFO goes in.

“Do we have to wait for our wells to be contaminated or for the noise from the operation to get too loud or for the smell to get too bad before we can appeal our property tax assessment?” Bill Holt asked.

“You will have to work with the DNR to establish any impacts on your property and its value from the CAFO operation once it is up and running,” Madwig replied. “If the DNR agrees that there have been impacts, then I’ll work with you – I’ve done the research in other areas, and I’ve seen the impacts valued at between a two and 80 percent reduction in property values.”

Supervisor Reggie Lomas weighed in on the topic prior to the board’s vote on Holt’s appeal.

“We can’t change your assessment before the CAFO happens,” Lomas said.

Beinborn agreed with Lomas, and was quick to say, “I’m not trying to be mean to anyone.”

Marietta Township resident Jude Hartwick, who owns property on Kickapoo Valley Road, just downhill from where the CAFO will be built, disagreed with the board’s decision about the timing of consideration of a property tax reduction.

“I disagree with you about the timing, that you can’t act prior to the CAFO beginning operations,” Hartwick said. “Market value of property is a strange thing that fluctuates based on perception, whereas assessed values do not.”

Hartwick said that when the county had permitted the CAFO, that had already made a difference in how the value of his property is perceived.

“Even though no construction has taken place, my valuation has already gone down,” Hartwick contended. “What I have on paper is not what I’ll be able to get if I try to sell my property.”

Hartwick said that Madwig, as an assessment professional, is forced to wait for operations to commence at the CAFO, but he pointed out that the town board was not.

“Based on the Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) article about the DOR’s decision to reduce the property tax assessment of a property in close proximity to a dairy CAFO in Kewaunee County, I’m asking for a 13-percent reduction in my property taxes,” Hartwick said.

Lomas countered Hartwick’s contention that the board should act now and not wait for operations to commence at the CAFO.

“What if it doesn’t get built – what happens then if we act now?” Lomas asked. “If we wait until we have concrete proof that your property value has been impacted, we’ll have more ability to do something.”

Clerk Clifford Monroe made the point that legally, the board is obligated to act on the advice of their assessor. He pointed out, however, that the board’s decision can be appealed to the DOR.

“You can’t just assess ahead on a permit approval,” Madwig explained. “The way that people argue successfully for a reassessment is based on sale data for neighboring properties.”

Other comments

At the beginning of the process, Monroe explained to petitioners present that each case would be heard and decided individually. He made clear that no one person could speak on behalf of all petitioners present.

Bill Holt was the first citizen to have his hearing.

“I received my assessment from Holloway, and I’m surprised at how high it is,” Holt said. “I think this assessment is very unfair because of the approval of the permit for the CAFO.”

After discussion, the board voted unanimously to deny Holt’s request for a reduction in his property tax assessment.

Ken Cornish was up next, and spoke to the same issues.

“From what I’ve heard with Bill’s request, I don’t know if it is even worth talking with the board,” Cornish said. “Based on the article in WSJ about DOR’s finding about the Kewaunee County property in close proximity to the CAFO, I believe my property taxes should be reduced 8-13 percent. As the wind blows, my property is about 1,200 feet from the CAFO site.”

Supervisor Sheila Zinkle responded to Cornish.

“Believe me, I understand your concerns,” Zinkle said. “On my property near Wauzeka, I’m already experiencing the impacts of Roth’s CAFO down on Highway 60.”

After discussion, the board voted unanimously to deny Cornish’s request for a reduction in his property tax assessment.

Jude Hartwick’s petition has been reported on above. After discussion, the board voted unanimously to deny Hartwick’s request for a reduction in his property tax assessment.

Last to make a petition, Eric Pauer addressed the board.

“I’m hearing you say that to reduce our assessment now, before the CAFO is built and begins operations, would be speculative,” Pauer said. “Can we get an adjustment once the CAFO begins operations?”

Madwig responded that the Town Board of Review meets annually, usually in late spring or early summer. He said that it had been delayed this year because it’s a ‘revaluation year.’

“There is an opportunity for your property to be reassessed every year,” Madwig said. “I can come and help you investigate, and work with DNR and DOR, but we have to wait until the CAFO is operational.”

After discussion, the board voted unanimously to deny Pauer’s request for a reduction in his property tax assessment.

Although they did not petition the board for a reassessment, Kat Tigerman and Carl Schlecht were there to listen, and spoke briefly to the board.

“This CAFO affects us – we have so much that we want to do to improve our home, but we’re not sure if we should move forward because we may have to sell if things get too bad after the CAFO begins operations,” Tigerman said. “I appreciate your sensitivity to our plight.”

Madwig speaks

Reached after the meeting, Bob Madwig of Holloway Appraisal Service had this to say:

“I have helped property owners in the past navigate the DOR when appeals to Board of Review cases happen,” Madwig said.  “The process can sometimes be confusing and time consuming, and in my opinion I'm not only contracted by the township, but also work directly for the residents.  If I can make their lives easier trying to accomplish their goals, then I'm happy to do so.”

He said that the Marietta Township situation is the first CAFO situation he’s had to deal with, and he takes it very seriously. 

“Mr. Hartwick sent me a study, and I reviewed other information pertaining to other CAFOs around the state,” Madwig said.  “From what I saw, rulings were made after the CAFOs were operational and the effects were easier to measure.  I committed to the Marietta residents to work with them, along with the DOR and DNR on an annual basis, and make any adjustments that seem fair, appropriate and equitable.”  

Madwig said he works with the DOR often, and says they are a great resource for him when challenging situations arise. 

“CAFOs seem to be increasing every year, and the effects on property are real,” Madwig said.  “The timing of the adjustments and the formula for which the adjustments are calculated will take some work, but we'll get there.   I appreciate the manner in which the residents of Marietta brought this issue to my attention, and again I'm committed to working with them moving forward to see this situation resolved.”

DOR decision

In DOR ‘2017 Appeal #2017-81-01, Findings of Fact section D-6,” Wisconsin Department of Revenue awarded a 13-percent property tax reduction to Scott and Deborah Kliment for their 14-acre property in rural Algoma, Wisconsin. Their property is located just across the road from the Ebert Enterprises dairy CAFO.

After investigation about the impacts of large dairy CAFOs on property values in Kewaunee County, DOR determined that impacts are not seen from operations smaller than 4,000 animal units. A full-grown dairy cow is considered to be 1.4 animal units.

When the Kliments purchased their property in 1995, the farm across the street was not yet a CAFO.

“It was beautiful,” Debo-rah Kliment said. “It was all beautiful, single-family dwellings, all farmettes. We had an Amish family near-by. We should have taken the hint when the Amish moved out.”

Deborah Kliment said that she was amazed at how quickly the negative impacts of the dairy’s scaling up to a CAFO began to affect them. She cited the noise, traffic and smell. Mercifully, at the time of DOR’s decision in 2017, the Kliment’s well water was not impacted.

The Kliments first response was to try and sell their property. But after contacting two real estate agents, they found that the price they could expect from sale of their property was considerably lower than its appraised value. The agents told them to expect that it could take as much as two years to sell their property.

Their next tack was to ask the Pierce Town Board of Review for a reduction in their tax assessment. The town’s assessor declined to take the CAFO into account, and the town board decided against action based on their uncertainty about what authority they had to act in the situation.

On Sept. 7, 2017, the Kliments sat before a panel of two Department of Revenue staffers in Green Bay; they and the town assessor made their case. In November of 2017, the department issued its ruling in favor of the Kliments, who saw about a $30,000 drop in their assessment from the ruling.

The department was not moved by complaints of smell and noise, nor by price-assessment comparisons of the neighboring six properties, the sales of which were too old to be useful. They also were not impressed by the assessor’s attempt to show a comparable sales grid, because the assessor used sales of properties that the department found were not reasonably comparable.

So the department did its own study of residential sales in the county in the prior three years. It excluded residences in the county’s two cities and two villages, and it excluded waterfront properties.

It then graphed those properties by distance from a CAFO.

In the end, the department looked at 184 sales of properties measured against CAFOs of more than 4,000 animal units. This comparison showed a larger difference within one-third of a mile of the large CAFO, a small but still significant difference just outside that third of a mile, and no significant difference a mile or more from the farm.

The department concluded that the value of property located more than a mile from a CAFO or within any distance from a CAFO smaller than 4,000 units is not impacted. The value of property located between a quarter mile and a mile of a large CAFO is reduced by eight percent. The value of a property within a quarter mile of a large CAFO is reduced by 13 percent.

The ruling does not pro-vide an automatic tax reduction to anyone living within a mile of a large CAFO, the department was quick to point out.

 “DOR considers this study to be appropriately extensive for application across Kewaunee County only,” the department’s facts sheet says. “While trends may be useful to consider in nearby, similar counties, it is not appropriate to apply beyond the immediate area. Kewaunee County is somewhat unique in that there are a significant number of (large CAFOs) from which to gather data.”

Kewaunee County Board chairman Robert Weidner said the Kliments' 13 percent tax reduction won't have a big impact on the county budget, but that could change if other homeowners follow their lead.

“If this would carry over to other challenges to assessments, so that numerous residents are appealing their taxes and the valuation of their property, it could get to be substantial,” Weidner said.