Pollution could make Victor assessments fall
Property owners who live in a mile-long area where the groundwater is contaminated by industrial solvents may see a reduction in their property assessments next year, albeit a modest one.
That’s according to town Assessor Wayne Pickering, who, at Monday night’s Town Board meeting, presented a report in which he examined how property values and assessments were affected in several communities elsewhere in the state that, like Victor, have grappled with contamination.
“There will be a slight reduction in the assessments in the area,” he told the board. “At this point, I’m not willing to say how much.”
Pickering said he doesn’t have all the information he needs. Since the pollution made headlines in March, the town has only received information for one home sale in the contaminated area, which extends roughly a mile from a point just south of Dryer Road to Modock Springs. That home on Dryer Road is assessed at $284,500, and it sold for $236,000.
Four homes within one mile of the contaminated area have sold since March, he said. Only one sold for significantly lower than its assessment. But in that case, Pickering said, “the sale price was influenced by the home suffering from deferred maintenance.” That is, it needed repairs.
He and other town officials have been told of a few properties in the contaminated area where sales have fallen through because potential buyers were worried about property values and their health. In his report, Pickering points out that a potential buyer of a Surrey Lane home withdrew the contract upon learning of the toxins, believed to have originated in the nearby Syracusa Sand and Gravel mine.
Pickering has been closely watching the real estate market in the area, called the “plume” by state officials. He said he found two homes, both on Hunters Run, listed for sale, one for $224,900, the other for $300,000. The first home is assessed at $167,500, while the second home is assessed at $319,900 and had originally been listed for $290,000, he said.
A few other homes that were listed for sale have been taken off the market. One was listed for more than $70,000 over its assessed value, while two others were listed at significantly lower than their assessed value.
Pickering asked 13 municipalities across the state to provide information on how assessments were affected because of contamination. Responses depended on a number of factors, from the severity of the contamination to the reaction of the marketplace, he explained.
Here’s what happened in some of those communities:
• Assessors in the village of Gowanda, Cattaraugus County, did not make adjustments to the assessments of 24 properties affected by contamination until three years after it was first discovered, the report said. In the fourth year, 22 of the homeowners took their cases to court and the town reduced their assessments 15 percent.
• The town of Union in Broome County has not reduced assessments for the 250 properties affected by contamination from IBM. That’s despite data that shows that homes sales have declined in the area from about 12 a year to about four to six. Pickering said “the area is still seeing a 2 to 3 percent appreciation in market value.” In that case, IBM paid for ventilation systems to remove toxic vapors from the homes.
• In Sweden, Monroe County, at the General Electric/Black & Decker site, “the party responsible for the contamination purchased the homes” for $10,000 over their appraised value. The homes were then demolished and replaced with a parking lot.
Back in Victor, two property owners in the contaminated area fought their assessments in small claims court in August and won reductions. The assessed value of the home of Michael and Jackie Barry at 7560 Dryer Road was reduced from $225,700 to $187,500, and the home of David and Linda Turner at 1239 Hunters Runs was reduced from $192,300 to $167,500.
The Barrys were among several residents living in the affected area who were in the audience at Monday’s board meeting. Minutes before Pickering presented his report, Michael Barry gave the board an update on his discussions with state officials about the contamination and remediation efforts. He said he continues to get advice and support from environmental groups, including some from out of state, as well as from researchers from the University of Rochester who want to investigate worries that the contamination resulted in a cluster of cancer cases.
A few others spoke, including Surrey Lane resident George Perzel. He said the issue continues to grow “out of proportion.”
“It is creating a very bad name for Victor in general,” he added. “I do not support the ‘Chicken Little’ philosophy.”
Contact Jessica Pierce at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 250, or at email@example.com.