Wellington is seeking to undo a mistake that left the village paying $184,000 in taxes on its K-Park property and is willing to take the issue to court, Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said Tuesday.
“I don’t know whether it will be successful, but we’re going to give it a shot and press the issue,” she said. “If necessary, I may come back to you and ask you to authorize us to file a lawsuit.”
Earlier this year, Wellington paid nearly eight times more in taxes than it should have on K-Park because Wellington did not file for agricultural status on the property.
Currently, organic crops are being grown on the 67-acre site at the corner of State Road 7 and Stribling Way. The farming qualifies the property for an agricultural exemption, which it has received in the past. The taxes should have been about $22,000, which would have been paid for by the farmers leasing the property.
Wellington staff has not been clear about who dropped the ball, but Cohen said she thought the mistake was caused both by Wellington staff and the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, which sent the tax notice to the wrong address. “I think there’s still some shared responsibility,” Cohen said. “They had been provided with a copy of the lease. They knew full well that there was agricultural use on the property, and, without question, they knew our address had changed prior to sending out the notice.”
Though the property appraiser’s office denied Wellington’s request to go before the Value Adjustment Board, Cohen said she thinks the attorney made a mistake.
“In looking through the documents and the rules, it appears to me that the property appraiser’s attorney made an assumption that we had not actually requested an agricultural exemption on that property, and therefore would be ineligible to ask for a late hearing in front of the Value Adjustment Board,” she said. “I can’t say for certain it’s a winning argument, but we are going to send a letter to the property appraiser and outline where we think the errors are.”
Cohen said she hoped that, because Wellington was acting in good faith, the property appraiser’s office would agree to let them go before the board.
“This is not a situation where we’re trying to get away with something,” she said. This is something that was clearly known to the property appraiser’s office and was an oversight based partially on their error. Under the circumstances, I think it would benefit us to go before the Value Adjustment Board.”
Cohen said Deputy Village Manager John Bonde discovered that the tax notice was signed for by an “elderly volunteer” and then went missing.
“It doesn’t change that it was sent to the wrong address,” Cohen said. “There is sufficient support that they knew what our new address was and nevertheless sent the proposed tax notice to the old address. They could have changed that. It probably would have made a difference.”
Cohen said she would continue pursuing the matter.