The town’s failure to implement land-use valuation for agricultural lands drew questions, as well as anger, during the Hillsville Town Council meeting on Oct. 22.
Mary McGrady said after she first brought the issue before the previous town council during its April 23 meeting, she thought it would be implemented, but found it hadn’t when she recently received her real estate tax bill from the town. Land-use valuation allows localities to assess land under agriculture, horticulture, forest and open space at its use value, instead of assessing it at the real estate market value.
“On April 23, I came before an experienced mayor and four experienced councilmen. We filled out forms and didn’t hear anything until we got our tax bills in October,” said McGrady. “Surely, there was someone who knew the rules about passing an ordinance.”
McGrady was particularly upset with Greg Yonce, the councilman from McGrady’s district, whom she had tried to contact.
“This is really frustrating. I have called you twice and you did not return my calls. I wish you had,” said McGrady.
Yonce said he was having trouble with his phone service and apologized to McGrady for not returning her calls.
“My request is the same as six months ago, implement land-use assessment as it was done eight years ago in Carroll County and surrounding counties,” said McGrady. “Currently, our farm machinery is taxed at a higher rate than in Carroll County. I’m coming before you to ask that this be adjusted.”
McGrady said she had brought the subject up as early as 2009, but was told “we’re in a tight spot with our water and sewer,” and a land-use valuation wasn’t possible at that time. Council Ed Terry added that he recalled McGrady’s previous inquiries into the matter, and that he would “look further into it.”
Mayor Crowder then pointed out that the present council just recently found out from Town Attorney Andrea Tolbert “what was going on (as far as land-use valuation). She had not been authorized by the previous town manager (Larry South) to go any further with it.”
Tolbert said any land-use valuation ordinance would have to be approved by June 1 of the year before the land-use valuation ordinance goes into effect. That means the earliest an ordinance could go into effect in Hillsville would be 2014. A public hearing will be needed before any ordinance is adopted.