Westmoreland County sued over assessments as part of Jeannette Glass dispute

| Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The attorney for a New York company has filed a lawsuit in Common Pleas Court claiming Westmoreland County's tax assessment system is unconstitutional.

At issue is the assessment of the 13.2-acre Jeannette Glass site owned by the Zion Bullitt Avenue LLP. In November, the county's assessment appeals board denied a bid by the Zion company to have the property's value lowered.

Company representatives contend the vacant and blighted site is worth just $500,000. For taxing purposes, the county has placed a fair market value of the property at about $2.6 million.

Westmoreland uses values assigned to properties in 1972 as a baseline for its assessments.

“The appellee's decision is erroneous and incorrect as a matter of face and as a matter of law because the base-year system used by the appelle is unconstitutional,” attorney Aaron Kress wrote in the lawsuit.

Westmoreland's assessment system is among the oldest in the state.

The Zion property was sold for back taxes in October when the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. paid $305,000 for it.

That sale has not been finalized because the company filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the purchase. The lawsuit is pending.

According to tax records for the property, in each of the past three years Zion owed more than $11,000 to the county, more than $17,000 to the city of Jeannette, and more than $44,800 to the school district.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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