Judge rules against city in assessment appeals case

Property values don’t justify assessment amounts, court rules

By Seth Schmidt

A Lyon County District Judge has ruled in favor of nine parties who contested special assessments levied by the City of Tracy for 2015 infrastructure improvements on Morgan and Fourth streets.
The ruling by Judge Leland Bush “quashed” the special assessments imposed on appealed properties.  Unless the City of Tracy mounts a successful appeal, the judge’s ruling means that the appellants will not be required to pay any special assessments on the affected properties.
The judge’s ruling wipes out $145,193 of special assessments on 12 different real estate parcels.  The quashed assessments represent about 22% of a $649,231 special assessment roll that the Tracy City Council approved in November of 2015. Sixty-three property parcels were included in the 2015 assessment roll.
Mayor Steve Ferrazzano said the city council would discuss the judge’s decision in a closed session Monday night, following the regular council meeting.
“We have to decide whether we are going to file an appeal,” the mayor said.
• • •
Judge Bush’s decision upheld the appellants’ contention that the city’s assessments were contrary to state law and the city’s because the assessed amounts on the properties were greater than any demonstrated increase in real estate parcel values.
Judge Bush wrote that the sole issue of the case was whether the assessments were greater than any increased market value due to the improvements.
Testimony was presented in court that the value of the properties had not increased because of the improvement project.  Some testimony also contended that the properties had functional sewer and water utilities and serviceable sidewalks, curbs, and streets, before the on-set of the construction, and thereby did not benefit from the project.
Judge Bush ruled that the City of Tracy had not presented any credible evidence to support the contention that the improvements had resulted in increased property values to justify the assessments.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.