Running out the clock on ballpark assessment protests

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Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott emailed me a short time ago to point out the bind into which downtown property owners have been put by Mayor Kathy Taylor's administration's insistence that owners had only limited rights to protest the assessment for the new Tulsa Stadium Improvement District, which will finance a new ballpark for the Tulsa Drillers. Now that the Oklahoma Attorney General has contradicted the Taylor administration, it's too late for property owners to file a protest, according to Taylor's timetable for getting the assessment roll approved.

There are a couple of points that no one seems to be making about the ballpark assessment and the Attorney General's advisory letter.

Since last July, the Mayor and the City Attorney have repeatedly said that the assessment on a piece of property does not need to have a relationship to the benefit which the property will receive from the ballpark. They have said that all downtown property can be assessed at the same rate, no matter how near or far it is from the ballpark. I have disagreed with the Mayor and the City Attorney on that issue since last July. I believed that state law was clear, that there must be a relationship between the assessment rate and the benefit which a piece of property will receive. The less the benefit, the less the assessment rate.

Now, the AG's letter says the Mayor and the City Attorney are wrong. The AG says that the assessment rate for a piece of property must bear a relationship to the benefit which the property will receive. The further away a piece of property is from the ballpark, the less the benefit and the less the assessment rate. Or, if the County believes that the jail will not receive any benefit from the ballpark, then the jail should be assessed as a lesser rate.

In April, the City Council was preparing to conduct a hearing on the assessment roll and approve the assessment for all downtown property. The Mayor and the City Attorney told property owners that, if they had not objected last July at the formation of the assessment district, then they could not object at the hearing on the assessment on their property. In fact, the City Attorney provided a lengthy, written legal opinion justifying her position on that issue.

The AG's letter says they are wrong. The AG says that a property owner could object to the amount of the assessment on his or her property, even if they hadn't objected to the formation of the assessment district.

But, based upon the assurances by the Mayor and the legal opinions by the City Attorney, most property owners did not file objections in April. They were told that they couldn't object, so they relied on that advice and they didn't object.

Now, the AG says that the Mayor and the City Attorney were wrong. The AG says that the property owners could have objected at the April hearing. But, since they relied on the Mayor's statements and the City Attorney's opinion, they didn't object. Now, the deadline has passed and they can't object.

And, now, the assessment roll may proceed.

The Mayor and the City Attorney misinformed people as to what the law was and what their rights were. The property owners relied on that advice. Now, the time to file an objection has expired.

But, the Mayor is spinning this as, "The AG says there's nothing wrong and the assessment can go forward."

I am not against the ballpark. I have never been against the ballpark. But, I have a duty to protect the citizens of Tulsa and make sure that all aspects of it are done legally and properly.

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5 Comments

David S. Author Profile Page said:

Sounds like the Mayor might have opened herself and or Tulsa up to some more lawsuits....

Bob said:

Mayor Taylor and her at-will City Attorney are if anything very clever attorneys.

Telling the property owners that they have no basis to protest their assessments, based on a City Attorney opinion.

Then, after the AG sends an "advisory" letter to the City administration, lo and behold, property owners in the BID do in fact have a right to protest their assessment based on lack of specific benefit or distance to the stadium.

But, by the way, the deadline to file your protest was in April. Based on fallacious advice from Mayor Taylor and her City Attorney, most property owners did not file a protest.

Sorry.

You're screwed.

But, remember downtown BID district property owners:

Although you are stuck with the BID assessment for the next THIRTY years, you are not stuck with Mayor Taylor.

She has a election coming up. Soon.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

It could backfire. What if everyone moved out and no one came in to fill the vacancies, because of the outrageous assessments?

Paul said:

And what if even more vacant buildings are torn down to make way for even more parking lots?

Then even more property owners could keep their assessments at the minimum levels (on the land area only) while potentially raking in some revenue from short-term event parking.

Yogi Author Profile Page said:

It seems our mayor is quite the gamer. That is a lot different than being a leader.

BTW - I nominated your blog as "best political blog" on "bloggerschoiceawards.com"

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 28, 2009 12:58 PM.

Urban Tulsa Weekly last column was the previous entry in this blog.

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