The Baldwin County Commission recognized three former members of the Baldwin County Board of Equalization for their service during what some commissioners called “trying times” in 2007, when the Revenue Commissioner’s Office received more than 22,000 property tax appeals following increases in property taxes. The board made statewide headlines because the 22,000 appeals were the highest number of appeals in the state.
The 2007 Board of Equalization session lasted more than six months, when previous sessions lasted no more than a few weeks. The commission recognized board members Al Thompson, Connie Tampary and Ray Clark at its Tuesday morning meeting in Bay Minette.
Board of Equalization members are appointed by the governor and serve four-year terms. Thompson served from 1998 until 2011, Clark served from 2003 until 2011, and Tampary served from 2007 until 2009 and again from 2011 until the present. Tampary’s term expires in October 2015.
Following the 22,000 appeals in 2007, the board saw 15,000 in 2008 and approximately 12,000 in 2009. The board is a citizens review board comprised of part-time members. It hears property tax appeals from citizens, making a determination of fair and reasonable market value from evidence presented at the hearing.
“This little part time job turned into a full time job,” Clark said on Tuesday. “I think it was kind of a relief for retired guys like Connie and I, it kept us from sitting at home on the couch. It was a pleasure to serve. I certainly learned a lot more about the county.”
Commissioner Chris Elliott said he was one of the 22,000 private citizens making an appeal to the board in 2007.
“I went in one with perception and left with a very different perception,” Elliott said. “I went in thinking how unjust it was, but because they were fair and listened, I left thinking it was a very fair process.”
Media reports from 2007 indicated a lack of public confidence in the revenue commissioner’s office at the time, but Thompson said current Revenue Commissioner Teddy Faust has the office moving in the right direction in public perception.
In other business, the commission denied a request from Bobby Cheeseman, who sought permission from the county to rezone 1.34 acres of land off Baldwin County Road 54 from RSF-1, residential single family, to rural residential to allow for commercial use. Cheeseman planned to use the land to sell and finance four to five automobiles at a time. He told the commission he had recently moved his business from Mobile to Baldwin County.
Cheeseman told the commission he spent nearly $20,000 before discovering the site was not properly zoned for the business. He said when he applied for a business license, he was not alerted to the fact the property was improperly zoned. Planning Director Vince Jackson said the county does not currently have a mechanism to first direct those applying for a business license to the planning department.
At its June 9 meeting, the county Planning Commission recommended denial of the application, and the commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to deny it.
In other business, the commission approved a request to rezone 2.14 acres from RSF-1 to B-4, major commercial district, to allow for the construction of a boat and RV storage facility. The property is located on Roscoe Road in Gulf Shores, north of Pat’s RV Storage.
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