Opinion: Setting things straight

Wednesdays’ Empire had a My Turn by Judy Crondahl making numerous assumptions and untrue allegations and I felt it quite necessary to set the record straight.

The first allegation is that the initiative to repeal the property tax disclosure rule is instigated by commercial property owners. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is promulgated by a group of residential Realtors who are not only concerned with privacy issues but also the eventual extension of this disclosure leading to a tax on the sale of your property. This has occurred in almost every state that has enacted a disclosure law so their fears are not without merit. I am one of the commercial property owners who actually asked for all the information to be made public as the assessors office has been playing a shell game with the real estate transaction numbers keeping all of us in the dark.

Crondahl likes to use the subport property sale as evidence that all commercial properties have been undervalued. The assessor’s office like to use it also. Unfortunately, the International Association of Assessing Officers is quite clear that this type of unique property sale cannot be used in a ratio analysis. The city actually put in a bid for approximately a third of what Norwegian Cruise Line bid so what does that tell you about the actual value if you are not wanting to build a dock? Crondahl goes on to talk about uptown properties “probably’ selling for much more than assessment.

Well as usual, Crondahl is spewing falsities and speculation. Of the 30 or so commercial properties we have managed to get sales date on including most all the properties sold downtown, they have all sold for anywhere from 15 to 75% under assessment. Yes, you read that right. They averaged 25% or more under assessment. These are prime properties on the South Franklin waterfront, up the street, across Front Street and up Seward Street. These owners are all up in arms as are some of us in commercial and industrial zones which have also gone down in value and are suing the City over these assessments. If Crondahl feels that these downtown properties have gone up so much in value, can she explain why the downtown office and retail space market has an unprecedented number of vacancies? No she can’t and neither can the assessor explain it yet they still raise the assessments. The assessor has elected to not use these under assessment sales which also goes against IAAO standards. Our grievances are many.

I encourage everyone to take a hard look at all the commercial properties around Juneau. Note the vacancy rate and note how many have been assimilated by non-profits. The commercial market in Juneau is not healthy and should be of grave concern to all. The vacant Walmart and underutilized Mapco next door show that it is not just downtown that suffers. Folks should do their homework before they go spouting off to show their total ignorance, or worse give unsuspecting folks a wrong perspective on things. None of us appreciate our raised home assessments but most of us realize that they probably reflect the actual sale value in this crazy housing market. But residential and commercial markets are two completely different things. We just hope that the commercial indicators are not reflective of where the residential market will be heading. A strong economy needs a balanced economy and we do not appear to have that right now. Don’t be swayed by headlines. Read the fine print.

• Dave Hanna’s family has been in Juneau since 1880. Every generation has included a small business person, including Hanna. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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