“Lock her up, lock her up” cried the Trump supporters. “Impeach, impeach!” shouted Congressional Black Caucus members. But wait! Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has been adjudicated guilty of anything.
Lynch mob mentalities are not limited to Washington DC. We recently had a case of it right here in North Lake Tahoe as a result of a front page Reno Gazette Journal article headlined: “Fight over Tahoe beach access leads to questionable land sales.”
The piece begins: “Five years ago Washoe County handed 87 parcels of land over to the Incline Village General Improvement District forgiving more than $800,000 in unpaid property taxes on the land in exchange for a promise from Incline Village to use the land as publicly owned space. An Incline official . . . sold three parcels to private buyers, a Reno Gazette Journal investigation found.”
The story, written by experienced political reporter Anjeannete Damon, quotes Deputy Washoe County District Attorney Michael Large as saying: “the land sales weren’t legal and must be undone or IVGID must pay the county back property taxes”; it also quotes Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler as saying: “This is bull***t. This land belongs to the taxpayers. . . and if (no one else) is going to take responsibility for the GIDs I will.” These incendiary quotes fanned local fire breathing IVGID haters into a frenzy.
But wait! Former IVGID chair and trustee Bruce Simonian, whose term of office included the periods in question, said: “There are 87 parcels that were deeded to IVGID from Washoe County from tax deficient owners; . . . the realtors wanted to sell these and a protocol had not been set. This was to have been done last October. IVGID is going to sell them to recover outstanding (recreation) fees and other fees. The DA in 2012 okayed the transactions. The new DA is wrong in his perception and interpretation of the law. The sales are legal. All of this information has been made public. The trustees are not personally involved in the sales, nor should they be. The majority of these lots are unbuildable.”
What are the facts? The parcels are unusable pieces of the Bitterbrush development common area which explains why no one would pay taxes on them. Why would people buy them? Because if they pay recreation fees on their worthless land they have beach access benefits of IVGID property owners. How about the “public open space” issue? Former Trustee Chair Simonian says that’s incorrect and he’s probably right; if that’s what the county wanted they would have filed a deed restriction at time of sale.
How about the “more than $800,000 in back taxes”? About 92%of the “back taxes” were owed to IVGID. Property taxes are based on value; recreation fees are $853 per parcel regardless of value. IVGID sold the three parcels for amounts equal to delinquent recreation fees ($14,000 to $17,000); yet the Washoe County Assessor shows current full cash value of each parcel is $500. So IVGID recovered delinquent recreation fees plus interest and the properties are back on the county tax rolls. And even if the “open space” claim were true that’s what the parcels will remain . . . forever!
So, despite Commissioner Berkbigler’s angst, the deputy district attorney’s misconstruing the law and the facts and the lynch mob mentality of (to borrow a term from that great Bogart movie “Casablanca”) the “usual suspects” these sales were a good deal for Washoe County, IVGID, the buyers and Incline Village recreation fee payers who now have new folks to share our load.
“All’s well that ends well” – Shakespeare.