On a 2-1 vote, the China Board of Assessment Review denied a request to reduce the valuation on ReVision Energy’s community solar farm at Three Level Farm on Route 32 North.
Four board members heard three hours of argument on the subject at a Dec. 18 meeting (see this article from Jan. 3). Three met again Jan. 10 to make a decision (the fourth person was out of state).
Chairman Dale Peabody began by establishing that no board member had a conflict of interest in acting on the project. He then reviewed the criteria for a successful appeal: the burden of proof is on the appellant (ReVision Energy in this case), who must prove the assessment was “manifestly wrong” in that it was either completely unreasonable or fraudulent, dishonest or illegal.
In addition, Peabody said, the appellant is required to provide an alternative valuation supported by credible evidence.
Peabody and fellow board member Harold Charles did not believe ReVision Energy met either requirement. They questioned the company’s figures on depreciation and on the end-date for the project and its final value; and they found the company’s belief that taxes should equal to no more than five percent of income unsupported.
Peabody added that the local board’s task was difficult, because there are not yet established criteria for making decisions about the value of community solar farms. He recommended companies and assessors get together and try to agree on some basic elements.
Meanwhile, he said, he found no evidence in ReVision’s presentation that assessor William Van Tuinen’s valuation was manifestly wrong.
Board member Sheri Wilkens voted against rejecting the appeal. She agreed that ReVision’s proposed cap on taxes was not adequately supported, but wanted a scientific basis for the varying figures presented on depreciation and final value.
Van Tuinen had never before valued a community solar farm, she pointed out, while ReVision brought an expert to the December meeting to defend its figures, Chief Counsel and Director of Development Steve Hinchman.
Expert, Charles agreed, but also “the guy who’s selling the thing.”
The difference in valuation is significant: Van Tuinen valued the community solar farm at about $275,000, while working backwards from ReVision’s five percent tax rate gives a valuation of less than $91,000.
Kristin Collins, ReVision’s attorney, said at the end of the Jan. 10 meeting that her client would wait to see the written document denying the appeal, with its statement of facts, before deciding whether to continue to court.