Town Overcharged Plaza Owners, Tax Board Says

The state appellate tax board ruled that the town overassessed the former Grand Union plaza property by more than $11 million. That ruling means the town will have to compensate the owners.
MICHAEL J. RAUSCH/ENTERPRISE - The state appellate tax board ruled that the town overassessed the former Grand Union plaza property by more than $11 million. That ruling means the town will have to compensate the owners.

A recent ruling by the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board may cost the town of Bourne more than $123,000.

The Appellate Board ruled last month that the town overvalued the plaza on Clay Pond Road off MacArthur Boulevard, where the Grand Union grocery store used to be located, by $11.2 million over four years, thus overcharging the owners on their property tax bills.

The property, located on 16 acres, consists of 57,000 square feet of shopping space, and was formerly anchored by the Grand Union. Town records show that the site is owned by Drake G. Behrakis and Donald P. Quinn, trustees of the Claybourne Trust. Records also show that the trust is in the care of Winslow Property Management out of Lexington. Mr. Behrakis and Mr. Quinn were represented by George A. McLaughlin III and Matthew E. Burke of the McLaughlin Brothers, P.C. out of Boston.

The Appellate Board found that the Town of Bourne overvalued the property by almost 40 percent during the fiscal years between 2010 and 2013.

The town is currently considering whether to appeal the appellate board’s ruling.

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“The trustees of the Claybourne Trust feel vindicated that the Appellate Tax Board paid such close attention through this long and complicated trial and rendered a fair decision,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
In a letter to the Bourne Board of Assessors, Mr. McLaughlin said that the town owes the Claybourne Trust a refund of its real estate taxes in the amount of $99,840 for the four years. In addition, under Massachusetts General Law, the town also owes interest to the tune of $23,593, had payment been made by June 30. The amount to be refunded increases $21.88 per day for each day after June 30.

Town counsel Robert S. Troy filed a Request for Finding of Facts with the appellate tax board last Friday. Mark J. DiFrancesco of the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board said that either side can request the Findings of Fact report, which provides them with “a full written decision on how the board arrived at the fair cash value of the property.”

Mr. DiFrancesco added that filing the motion does not put a hold on the accrual of interest that came with the board’s ruling. Rather, the longer that the town takes to pay, the more they will have to pay, he said.

Town administrator Thomas M. Guerino said that he has met with Mr. Troy to discuss the appellate tax board’s ruling.

“The first step is to get the Finding of Facts and see how they ruled before we move forward,” Mr. Guerino said.

He said that if the town does pay the abatement, the money would come out of the town’s overlay reserve account. Mr. Guerino said the town established the overlay account “to pay for abatements such as this.” He estimated that there is currently a couple of hundred thousand dollars in that account.

The town had 10 days from the rendering of the appellate board’s decision to request the Findings of Fact report. Having filed the request, the town now has 30 days to appeal the tax board’s decision, Mr. DiFrancesco said.

Mr. Guerino said that the appellate tax board’s decision is expected to be addressed by the Bourne Board of Selectmen at their meeting on Tuesday, July 15. He said that the Bourne Board of Assessors might be involved in any discussions of the ruling along with the selectmen.

Board chairman Peter J. Meier said that it will be up to the selectmen whether to appeal the ruling by the appellate tax board.

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