Owner of Flathead Island Seeks to Reduce His Property Tax

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ROLLINS – In perhaps the most expensive residential tax appeal case in Montana history, a California real estate mogul is asking a state board to reduce the assessed value of his Flathead Lake island home by $32 million.

If the board agrees, Don Abbey of La Mirada, California, would see the parcel’s annual property tax bill of $367,700 reduced by at least two-thirds.

Last week, a dozen attorneys and expert witnesses spent three days before the state Tax Appeal Board in Helena, arguing whether the state properly assessed Abbey’s extravagant home and other structures on Shelter Island.

Abbey built the home and boathouse in 2011 and has it listed for sale, with an asking price of $59.5 million, which also includes most of the wooded island just off the western shore of Flathead Lake, near Rollins.

The state says the 24,000-square-foot, three-story home and other “improvements” on the island, such as a 5,000-square-foot boathouse and apartments, are worth $41.8 million, and is levying property taxes based on that value.

A Missoula appraiser hired by Abbey says the home and other structures should be assessed at $9.8 million.

Once attorneys for both sides submit final, written arguments next week, the two-member board will have 90 days to make a decision – which is almost certain to be appealed to state District Court, by one side or the other.

Abbey, who appeared at last week’s hearing, is arguing the Revenue Department improperly valued the property for several reasons.

Department appraisers compared the property to similar properties outside the state, but didn’t make adjustments for its Montana locale, he says.

His lawyers also argued that the agency failed to account for something called “functional obsolescence.” The property has been “overbuilt” to Abbey’s specifications, such as the two-foot-thick stone walls, but those amenities don’t add value to the house, because any buyer may not want to pay for that preference, they say.

From the Missoulian

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