Current Use penalty too high, Starr says

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copyright the Chronicle January 18, 2017

A recent decision by the Vermont Supreme Court could cost the new owners of the former Champion lands in Essex County a million dollars in lost property tax relief.

State Senator Bobby Starr of North Troy thinks he has a better way to approach such situations, but said he needs to wait until the courts are finished with the matter.

The question involves 56,000 Northeast Kingdom acres that were once owned by Champion International Corporation, but sold to the Essex Timber Company in 1998. Essex Timber enrolled the property in the state’s Use Value Appraisal program, more commonly known as the Current Use program.

Under that program, a landowner is taxed for a forested or agricultural property at its “current use” value, rather than at its fair market value.

One of the conditions of the tax relief program is that a landowner must submit a forest management plan to the state. That plan must conform to state standards and be approved by the state Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR), which must periodically inspect each property to make sure the owner abides by the management plan.

If Forests and Parks finds that a landowner has failed to comply with its forest management plan, the director of the state Division of Property Valuation and Review (PVR) must remove the parcel in question from Current Use for five years.

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