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ND board of equalization upholds assessed value of West Fargo mansion

On behalf of the home's owner, attorney Tami Norgard argued earlier this year to the Cass County Board of Equalization that the home's assessed value, which is used to determine property taxes, should be reduced to $3.4 million. Her request was denied and Norgard appealed to the State Board of Equalization, which met on Thursday, Oct. 6.

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The owners of this mansion on Sheyenne Street in West Fargo challenged the home's assessed value for purposes of determining taxes.
David Samson / The Forum
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WEST FARGO — The North Dakota State Board of Equalization has upheld the 2022 assessed value of a West Fargo mansion.

Earlier this year, the Cass County Board of Equalization approved a 2022 assess value of about $6.1 million for a home on Sheyenne Street in West Fargo, the ownership of which is registered to a limited liability company called Tevye.

The Vogel Law firm, which has been representing the company, has refused to publicly reveal who owns the company, but documents obtained by The Forum and information obtained at a public meeting of the West Fargo City Commission noted that the home belongs to Mike Chambers, who along with a business partner sold the Aldevron biotechnology company for $9.6 billion in 2021.

On behalf of the home's owner, attorney Tami Norgard argued to the Cass County Board of Equalization earlier this year that the home's assessed value, which is used to determine property taxes, should be reduced to $3.4 million. Her request was denied and Norgard appealed to the State Board of Equalization, which discussed the appeal at a meeting held Thursday, Oct. 6.

State Treasurer Tom Beadle, who is also a member of the State Board of Equalization, brought two motions during Thursday's meeting, both of which failed, that would have established the property's estimated value somewhere between what local officials asserted and what Norgard asserted on behalf the property's owner.

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In essence, the board followed a recommendation from the staff of the state Property Tax Division and took no action on Tevye's appeal Thursday, meaning the current valuation stands for now.

The home in question, reported to be the most expensive in West Fargo, does not have comparable sales, which makes determining a value difficult, spokespeople for both sides have said.

According to a report that staff for the state Property Tax Division prepared for the State Board of Equalization:

Tevye LLC purchased the 8.78-acre parcel in question in May of 2017 for about $1.4 million.

At the time, the parcel contained a residential structure that was built in 1996 and a pole building that has since been improved.

In 2018, a building permit with a value of $4.1 million was issued for the construction of a new main residence.

In August, staff from the state Property Tax Division inspected the property with Tevye staff present.

Property Tax Division staff discussed the appeal with Norgard and Gerald Bock, an independent appraiser, as well as with Nick Lee, the city of West Fargo assessor and Paul Fracassi, Cass County Tax Equalization director.

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Both a "cost" approach and a "sales" approach were used to determine the parcel's valuation.

Under the cost approach, an estimated value of about $9.3 million was placed on the parcel's new, larger house, while an estimated value of $204,700 was placed on the older, smaller house. With the land value added, Property Tax Division staff estimated the total parcel value at about $10.4 million, noting that value was higher than the assessed value of about $6.1 million.

Using a sales approach to determine valuation, Property Tax Division staff placed the parcel's estimated value at about $6.8 million, which staff noted was also higher than the property's assessed value of about $6.1 million.

Upon review of all information submitted by Tevye LLC and the city of West Fargo, "the assessment of the subject property is reasonable, and no change is necessary," the Property Tax Division staff report to the State Board of Equalization stated.

Norgard said Thursday night that by law, tax assessed value should reflect what the property would sell for on the open market, but she said few homes have been listed on the market over $1.5 million in West Fargo.

"There is simply no market for a $6.2 million home here," she said, adding she and her client continue to take issue with the city's computer formula, "which may work well for most houses, but it does not factor in the lack of a market for a $6 million home in this region."

Norgard said the state Tax Department investigator, ''used a similar computer model and did not suggest changing the value. The mass appraisal computer models simply do not recognize the limitations of our sales market, which is frustrating."

Other high value homes in Fargo and Horace pay up to $25,000 per year in taxes, Norgard said, but Tevye’s 2022 property tax bill is $89,000.

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"This is a fairness and equity issue," Norgard said.

In addition to fighting the estimated assessed value on the property, Tevye has also challenged special assessments the city of West Fargo has placed on the property.

Tevye was warned in 2019 that special assessments could be placed on the improved property totaling upwards of $500,000.

The city's special assessment committee assessed the property at $71,000 earlier this year, but after hearing objections from Tevye, the committee reduced the special assessment to about $23,000.

However, at a special meeting Thursday of the West Fargo City Commission, Norgard objected to that amount and asked the city to consider reducing the assessment to that of two single family homes, or about $6,000.

The City Commission did not vote on the special assessment district Thursday. Instead, it is expected to finalize the assessments at an upcoming regular commission meeting.

Forum reporter Wendy Reuer contributed to this article.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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