Friday, May 14, 2010

Landowner sues Augusta County ... judge delays decision

An Augusta County landowner who filed a lawsuit against the Board of Equilization will have to wait to learn the outcome.

In a familiar move, Thursday's hearing was delayed with Judge Victor Ludwig ordering attorneys for both sides to provide written arguments.

As reported in the Waynesboro News Virginian:

A judge Thursday delayed a ruling on a lawsuit accusing the Augusta County Board of Equalization of violating open government laws, but he alluded to a key charge.

“I don’t have anything that looks like [meeting] minutes,” said Judge Victor V. Ludwig, referring to documents provided by attorneys during two hours of testimony.

The judge ordered lawyers for Thomas Cline, of Fort Defiance, and the county to file written arguments in the case.

Cline, of Fort Defiance, charges that the board violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act by failing to conduct open meetings and properly record minutes and votes.

The board last fall increased the value of Cline’s 63-acre property by $75,000. He wants Ludwig to order the board to revert the value to $942,000.
Interestingly, the 2009 reassessments were protested by thousands when 10,500 Augusta County residents signed petitions requesting the Board of Supervisors and Commissioner of the Revenue Jean Shrewsbury roll back what many felt were outrageously inflated real estate assessments. The largest crowd in history, over 1,000 residents, attended a March 2009 Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting addressing the assessments.

Others have run into issues with the Government Center over lack of minutes or recorded minutes concerning meetings. In the Rocket Boy case, now under appeal in Augusta County, a request for the audio tape minutes from a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting was denied and a hard copy version was found to have numerous inaccuracies and omissions. When the Rocket Boys pressed for the audio tape so direct comparisons could be made, they were denied by the county.

The News Virginian sifted through cases:
A review by The News Virginian of 75 cases that resulted in increases found one recorded vote: a unanimous decision to maintain the value of Cline’s property at $1.02 million. That amount earlier had been set by the board, prompting the hearing last fall.
Now this case, like others, has been put on hold.

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