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Legislative Memo

Ken Pokalsky
Vice President of Government Affairs
T 518.465.7511
www.bcnys.org

BILL:

A.2686 (Pretlow)

Support

SUBJECT:

Excludes Contamination as Factor in Real Property Assessments

 

DATE:

March 12, 2012

 

This legislation precludes the consideration of “environmental contamination” in assessing the value of any real property. The Business Council opposes this legislation because it will adversely affect innocent landowners, impair efforts to redevelop properties, and increase uncertainty in the assessment process.

The intent of this bill maybe to assure that persons whose violation the Environmental Conservation Law or Public Health Law and cause actual environmental damage will not benefit financially from such actions through lower real property tax assessments. The Business Council opposes A.2686, because its impact would extend well beyond its intended purpose, and raises a number of legal and practical concerns.

First, it unfairly precludes consideration of contamination in any instance, including those where the current property owner has no responsibility for the contamination.  For example, a land owner could have the value of their property impact by illegal disposal or the migration of contamination from off-site sources, or from prior contamination.

Second, this legislation would impair state efforts to promote remediation and reuse of contaminated brownfield sites. Under this bill, a local assessor could disregard the current market value of contaminated property once it has been acquired by a non-responsible party for the purpose of cleanup and reuse, and impose an unfairly high assessment based on its imputed “pre-release” value.  The mere threat of an increase in assessment on a contaminated property will have a chilling effect on its marketability.

Third, under this bill, the tax district could seek to increase a parcel’s value by claiming that any devaluation is partially attributable to existing environmental contamination on the site, regardless of the impact of other factors. Finally, we have concerns regarding the open-ended nature of this legislation; for example, the lack of definition of the key term “environmental contamination.”

For these reasons, The Business Council respectfully opposes approval of A.2686.