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Tax bill jumps for vacant Whitehall property

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Whitehall officials are questioning how a vacant 20,100-square-foot property they purchased for $1,000 in 2012 now is valued at nearly $60,000 by Allegheny County, after the borough tore down the only structure on the site within the last year.

“Apparently when you tear a building down, the property value goes way up, I don't know?” borough Manager James Leventry told council members who laughed when they heard of the value change at their meeting last week.

Borough officials plan to either appeal the assessment value of the site or file for a tax exemption, Leventry said. Council members last week voted to approved this action.

Whitehall Borough, in March 2012, purchased the property that abuts both Weyman and Provost roads in an effort to remediate the site, Leventry said.

A neighboring property — once the Provost Auto Wreckers junkyard — that was long considered an eyesore by borough officials was sold and being turned into a storage unit facility. A vacant, dilapidated home, though, remained on an oddly shaped property, which Whitehall officials agreed to purchase in a final effort to clean up the area, they said.

Whitehall Council approved the demolition of the home and the property, now vacant, will serve in the future as a staging area for construction equipment when sewage repairs are made to nearby pipes, Leventry said.

County assessment records show tax bills for the property ranged between $23 and $28 from 2010 to 2012.

Borough officials never received a notice that the property value was changed, said Leventry, who did not have a previous value for the site prior to 2013, because this would be the first year the town would pay taxes on the land.

This year, however, county assessment records show the property valued at $59,900 with a real estate tax bill of $277.66.

“It didn't make any sense,” Leventry said of the bill.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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