Farash disputes assessed values

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Keuka Park’s Strong Hall and Keuka Park Apartments were lost to the Town of Jerusalem tax rolls when they were sold to Keuka College to house its growing body of resident students, but that might not be the only loss the taxpayers will feel.

The former owner, Farash Properties, is seeking to recoup property taxes paid to Yates County, the Penn Yan Central School District, and Jerusalem on what they claim were grossly inflated property assessments for 2009 and 2010.

Jerusalem’s veteran assessor, the recently retired Butch Comstock, valued the lakefront Strong Hall Apartments at $2.755 million and the 16-unit Keuka Park Apartments on East Bluff Drive at $950,000.  The sale prices to Keuka College filed with the County Clerk were $750,000 for Strong Hall and $450,000 for Keuka Park Apartments.

Using those figures as their basis for dispute, Farash seeks compensation for the supposed assessment discrepancy of almost $2.5 million. According to Jerusalem Town Board Member Neil Simmons, figures provided by Elaine Nesbitt, of the town, show that Jerusalem would have to pay Farash $11,700, Yates County would have to pay $45,000, and Penn Yan School District would have to pay $54,000.

Simmons believes it would be cheaper simply to pay Farash off rather than go to the expense of mounting a legal defense. Yates County Legislature Chairman and District I Representative Taylor Fitch, a Jerusalem resident, will be taking it before the legislature’s finance committee this week.

Penn Yan School District Interim Superintendent  Thomas Cox has received a request from Jerusalem Supervisor Daryl Jones asking the district to participate in a legal defense.

Cox will take it before the board Wednesday, June 8 with a recommendation they agree to Jones’ request. He anticipates the board will concur. Commenting on Keuka College’s gain at the expense of the tax base, Cox said, “It’s always difficult when there’s a win on one side. When a town loses such valuable properties (on the tax rolls) it will have an impact on assessments.”

Citing client confidentiality, J. Michael Smith, CEO of Cabot Group, which manages Farash properties, declined to comment.