New Britain sues Southington over watershed, reservoir land valuation

New Britain sues Southington over watershed, reservoir land valuation

reporter photo

SOUTHINGTON — New Britain’s water department is suing Southington over the valuation of property the city owns in town, including Wassel and Shuttle Meadow reservoirs.

New Britain’s Board of Water Commissioners is contesting a much higher valuation of more than 1,200 acres of water department land.  

Southington held a revaluation of taxable properties in town in 2019, which generally increased property values. Tax bills going out this year will be calculated based on the new valuations.

Assessment doubles

Joseph Skelly Jr., an attorney for New Britain, said the water department’s land had been valued around $2,100 per acre. That changed with the 2019 revaluation.

“They’ve got us in the over $5,000 range” per acre, he said. “It’s definitely double what it was.”

In the suit, Skelly wrote that state law requires towns to tax water supply land as farmland rather than at its developed value.

“It’s watershed property. It’s supposed to be assessed as if it were farmland,” Skelly said. “It’s not like your highest and best use value.”

Skelly said New Britain has an appraiser who can support the valuation of around $2,100 per acre. The New Britain Water Department has 14 properties in Southington.

New Britain appealed the assessment of its water department properties earlier this year. Last month, Southington’s Board of Assessment Appeals voted not to change the valuations.

Skelly filed the lawsuit in Superior Court at the end of last month.

Southington town officials declined to comment on the matter since it involved pending litigation.

Shuttle Meadow Reservoir

New Britain’s largest holdings in Southington are in the northeast corner of town. They include the Shuttle Meadow and Wassel reservoirs as well as surrounding land.

The property at 315 Long Bottom Road consists almost entirely of the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir and was assessed at just over $500,000 before the revaluation. Last year, the water department paid $15,750 in taxes for the 300-acres of reservoir and land.

After the revaluation, Southington assessed the property at $1,110,720.

The assessment is 70 percent of the appraised property value. Property is taxed based on the assessed value and the mill rate, with the mill rate being the amount of tax dollars owed on every $1,000 of assessed property value.

A spokeswoman for New Britain’s mayor Erin Stewart declined to comment on the suit.  

Properties across town

New Britain Water Department also owns properties on the far western side of town near Mount Vernon Road. Those holdings include 158 Cascade Ridge, a 12-acre parcel that includes a small pond and stream.

Another property is 156 acres, of no address, off Mount Vernon Road near the New Britain Reservoir just over the town line.

Assessment appeals

Jim Bowes, chairman of Southington’s Board of Assessment Appeals, said he believed the town’s assessment process worked for New Britain properties recently revalued.

The board was unanimous in rejecting New Britain’s appeal. 

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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