If you spot people in red polo shirts lurking around homes in your neighborhood, it’s likely that they are property appraisers working for New Hanover County. Tax Administrator Roger Kelley said these appraisers have been working for months to update property values in preparation for the 2017 tax revaluation.
The process is behind schedule, but Kelley said his department has hired temporary appraisers to speed up the work. So far the team has visited more than 56,600 residential properties and 3,916 commercial sites, and every piece of property will be visited. Where the owner is home, they even ask to see inside to get an accurate value.
When that is not possible, they take measurements, assess the condition of the property and the neighborhood, and work to get an accurate estimate, which property owners may challenge if they feel it is incorrect. But that won’t happen until early 2017, when the new property values are mailed out.
Unlike the 2012 revaluation, which reflected depressed housing and commercial property values because of the long recovery from the recession, residents could see their tax values go up. The Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors reported in August that home sales are strong and prices continue to increase.
State law requires tax values to reflect fair market value. The county’s total tax base will help determine actual property tax rates. Typically, taxes increase for some residents, fall for others and remain about the same for others, depending on the change in appraised value between revaluations.
Kelley said the appraisers should be finished by next April. If residents are unsure whether the stranger wandering around their neighbors’ yard is supposed to be there, appraisers wear a county ID, he said.
In other business Monday, the county commissioners unanimously approved the next chapter of a plan that will govern how land is developed. Commissioners got a look at Chapter 3, which sets goals to follow as the county grows. Previous chapters addressed public engagement and citizen participation.
In forming the plan, officials have worked with about 160 residents in several committees to come up with “overarching goals” and strategies, long-range planner Jennifer Rigby told the commissioners.
As Commissioner Rob Zapple pointed out, the implementation strategies accompanying each of the 18 recommended goals are intended to allow for some flexibility but specific enough to give guidance to planners and elected officials as to how New Hanover County should grow.
For example, the first goal listed was to promote environmentally responsible growth.
Implementation strategies include encouraging mixed-use development where appropriate to preserve green space and minimize the impact on natural resources, partnering with other agencies to preserve environmentally sensitive land, and encouraging “infill” development in areas that are already developed to make the best use of available land.
Other goals include promoting fiscally responsible development; increasing recycling and reduction of solid waste; promoting economic development by enhancing and highlighting natural resources; protecting and preserving our waters; promoting a healthy, active lifestyle by creating more schools where children can walk safely and connecting parking lots, greenways and other spaces; and providing a range of housing options, including more affordable housing.
The Coastal Area Management Act requires coastal counties to update their land-use plans periodically to ensure compliance with state environmental laws. But some counties, like New Hanover, also try to use their plans as a road map for how the area will grow and what types of uses will enhance the quality of life.
The commissioners didn’t need much discussion to approve the document for inclusion in the comprehensive plan.
“There has been a lot of public input and conversation throughout this process,” Commissioner Beth Dawson said.
She and other commissioners also insisted that community outreach be integrated into all parts of the plan so that residents may have a say in the direction their county takes.
The next step will be creating the land-use map that guides where certain types of development go, followed by other sections.
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