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Essex budgets $80K for Lewis suit

Sandy Lewis, center, has filed a complaint in court against the town of Essex over the assessed value of two of the six parcels that make up the Lewis Family Farm there.

Sandy Lewis, center, has filed a complaint in court against the town of Essex over the assessed value of two of the six parcels that make up the Lewis Family Farm there. Photo by Katherine Clark.

— The town of Essex has set $80,000 aside for a potential legal fight with the owner of the Lewis Family Farm.

Essex Supervisor Sharon Boisen confirmed that the town had set aside the money “on the assessor's legal expense line to defend the town in property tax litigation,” adding that “the only case we currently have is with the Lewis Family Farm.”

Salim “Sandy” Lewis filed suit July 27 against the town, claiming that the assessments on two of the six parcels he owns were grossly high, even after seeking relief.

Lewis and his legal counsel, Martina Baillie, did file a pair of grievances about the assessments on two parcels of land: a field crops parcel of 1,111 acres assessed at $6,033,190; and a 5.2-acre family residence assessed at $412,900.

The grievances were both taken into consideration by the town’s zoning board of appeals, which cut the first parcel’s assessment to $4,811,112 while leaving the second parcel’s value the same.

“I think that there was an intent to defraud that does not feel right and, at the end of the day, I’m getting it in my own town,” Lewis said. “No assessor has ever crossed the property line or has been asked to cross the property line. I asked the town to make this right or I was going to have to sue them. When I challenge something, I sue them.”

Lewis said that it was Baillie and another employee, Marco Turco, who questioned him on the assessed values of the parcels, which he had not paid attention to until recently.

“This is where it gets embarrassing for us,” Lewis said. “My wife was just paying the taxes and we never even thought about them. We have made our fair share of mistakes, but that was not our intent. I will plead to incompetence, but I am paying attention now.”

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