NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 4, 2013

'Stigma' gives Plum Island homeowners a tax break

PLUM ISLAND -- The state Appellate Tax Board has approved requests for tax abatements from a half-dozen oceanfront property owners here due in part to what it said was the effect of vicious winter storms and the resulting decline in beachfront property value.

Town officials said more abatement requests are pending, since the matters referenced in a Nov. 25 letter from the board related to assessments as of Jan. 1, 2012. Most of the affected homes are in the Annapolis Way area, a section of beachfront that took the brunt of ocean storms last winter.

Michelle Branciforte, principal assessor in Newbury, said more abatement requests are pending due to postponements. Some property owners could be not present at hearings this fall, she said.

The total of abatements, which will appear on owners’ bills as tax credits, is about $11,221 but it won’t have a damaging effect on municipal finances, said Tracy Blais, town administrator.

“We have an overlay account to in preparation for abatement,” said Blais yesterday. “This won’t affect us.”

A series of storms last winter was responsible for significant erosion and subsequent property damage. Six houses in the Annapolis Way area were destroyed and/or removed as a result of severe winds and pounding waves. The damage -- which included two homes falling into the sea as waves ripped apart the dunes beneath them -- drew intense media attention. The “stigma” attached to those images has caused home values on Plum Island to decline. It’s also caused financial hardships for homeowners who have seen their flood insurance rates increase significantly, and financing become harder to obtain.

The panel noted there had been “extraordinary erosion and tidal damage” and “an inability to obtain affordable insurance as well as market financing.”

The ATB also noted “an inability to sell oceanfront properties on Plum Island despite depressed offering prices.”

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