By GEORGE SCOTT: Video Time: 6:09

When the successive lawsuits are finally settled over the disputed property value of a 16.75-acre tract of land in Bexar County that has remained unsold on the open market since 2015, the central appraisal district headquartered in San Antonio may well have a lot more riding on the outcome than a single lawsuit.

And, those statewide critics who believe the property tax protest system in Texas is broken and needs systemic and dramatic reforms to achieve fairness and equity for all property owners will be watching these cases closely – very closely.

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O’Connor and Associates – who now represents the property owner in this continuing saga dating back to 2015 – believes this is a matter that should have never left any appraisal review board panel hearings requiring the expense and aggravation of lawsuits to achieve equity and fairness.

Bexar County has tagged the property with a value over the past four years from a high of $1.8 million to the 2018 value of $1.674 million. The owner’s opinion of value is $696,960 as of 2018.

Moreover, the Carey says the ARB panel had access to formal commercial sales listing agreement which contained due diligence notifications that there were only four usable acres for development in the 16.75 acre tract.

Armed with the testimony and data from the owner’s licensed engineer that only about four acres of the extreme and topographically challenging property could be developed, the ARB panel that heard the case apparently deferred to an uncorroborated assertion that the listing broker had told the central appraisal district that some eight acres could be developed.

O’Connor agent Sheri Carey’s description of what it would take to allow more than four acres of the property to be developed is staggering.

She describes the engineering conclusions as requiring the movement or fill of literally over 200,000 thousand cubic yards of  dirt and property plus various retaining walls around the property that could rise as high as 50 feet on the property that is steeply sloped from one end of the property to the other.

Carey says the costs of getting more development space out of the property is absolute unfeasible in the current market as evidence by the fact that has not sold since 2015 at its listed price.

Carey, whose career includes her work as a licensed real estate broker before becoming a leading commercial property tax consultant for the O’Connor firm, says the actual ARB panel hearing in 2018 was extremely disturbing.

She notes that the professionally licensed engineer actually testified during the hearing and that documents were provided.

However, she said, the appraiser for appraisal district informed the panel that he had talked to the listing broker for the property who told him that “the actual usable area is between 8-10 acres.”

Apparently on the basis of that uncorroborated statement by the representative of Bexar County’s appraisal district, “the panel decided it was a ‘he said – she said’ situation,” Carey said adding that the ARB panel chair indicated to other panel members that they follow her lead in refusing to make the value adjustment requested by the owners.

Carey said that while the panel reduced the value to $1.6 million from the original appraised value of $1.674 million, it was a “pittance” that in no way is justified by the strength of actual evidence that was presented at the hearing.

The bottom line is that this ARB panel decided to accept the uncorroborated statement of a central appraisal district representative in a formal hearing that included the testimony of a licensed, professional engineer in order to support the overvaluation of the property imposed by the central appraisal district, Carey believes.

A review of a formal listing agreement executed by the broker beginning on January 18, 2015 explicitly discloses that there are “4 acres usable” on the property.