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Revaluation prompts suits from 60 property owners

Sixty property owners have filed lawsuits or small claims assessment review cases against the City of Lockport in the wake of this year's citywide revaluation, according to legal records at the Niagara County clerk's office.

Among the plaintiffs are Elmer A. Granchelli, one of the city's two major commercial landlords; Briarwood Manor, the county's only assisted-living facility for seniors; and several attorneys.

The deadline to file such cases passed Friday. Legal action is the final step for property owners who think they are overassessed to try to win a lower assessment.

Assessor Joseph Macaluso said the small claims process is open only for owner-occupied one-, two- or three-family homes.

"For $30, you can have your day in court," he said.

State Supreme Court maintains a list of hearing officers for such cases. "Usually they're attorneys or retired real estate people or appraisers," said Macaluso.

It's his job to attend every small claims hearing. "We've had four hearings already. They're pretty informal. You don't need a lawyer," he said.

The hearing officer's decisions will take about three weeks after the hearing date.

"We're probably not going to get them all done by the time of school taxes [in September]," Macaluso said. "If the decision is in the favor of the petitioner, the decision itself is an application for a refund."

Business owners and others who filed full-dress lawsuits will have to work through the normal civil court litigation process, which can take months, if not years.

Granchelli filed multiple actions. One covers his property on East Avenue and Main Street, 10 parcels with a total assessment of just over $3 million on the new tax roll. He wants that reduced to $1.24 million.

He also sued to try to reduce the total assessment on three Walnut Street parcels from $1 million to $565,000; to cut three Pine Street buildings from $$394,600 to $195,000; and to reduce residential parcels on Locust Street and Sargent and Berkeley drives, including his own home, from a total assessment of $595,900 to $325,500.

Lockport Professional Park, which owns 27 parcels on and around Davison Road, seeks to cut the assessment from almost $9.3 million to $3.7 million.

SDK Villager Associates, owner of apartment houses on South Street and East Remick Parkway, sued to trim the total assessment from $3.6 million to $2.6 million.

Briarwood Manor seeks to cut the valuation of its Lincoln Avenue facility from $474,200 to $300,000.

Lawyers challenging Macaluso's numbers include part-time City Judge Thomas M. DiMillo and deputy corporation counsel David E. Blackley, in regard to their homes, and County Attorney Claude A. Joerg, Joseph F. Townsend and Jon L. Wilson, in regard to their offices.


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