A Pain in the Assets

After nearly three years of fighting, Susan Demander finally won her battle against the Douglas County Assessor's Office.

Demander had been arguing since 2003 that her Victorian-style office building should not be valued more highly than the almost-identical property next door ("A Tale of Two Buildings,' July 7).

When she had initially complained, she was told that the difference was because her building had a finished basement and the other property did not. She accepted that decision, but was shocked to discover a $160,619 gap in the valuations when they came out earlier this year -- even though at that point, both buildings had finished basements.

When she couldn't get an answer as to why there was such a huge discrepancy, she asked Westword to investigate. Staff at the assessor's office said they were unaware that the other property had a finished basement, since there were no building permits to prove it. Soon, however, those permits were discovered.

Originally, Demander had been told that assessments couldn't be revisited until 2007, but because of the new development, the assessor's office sent the case to an independent arbitrator for evaluation. Last Friday, the arbitrator reduced the value of Demander's property to within $20,000 of that of the other building, which means she has quite a bit less to pay in property taxes. "I was happy,' Demander says of the outcome.


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