Orford, New Hampshire, is a cozy, lovely little town in New Hampshire along the Connecticut River Valley, about half an hour north of Lebanon and Hanover (home of Dartmouth College). It’s a quiet little place, with its biggest claim to fame being that it was the adopted home of former governor and right-wing whacko ex-southerner, the late Meldrim Thompson (who wanted the National Guard equipped with nuclear weapons and briefly considered declaring war on Maine — but those tales are for another time). I spent over half my life within half an hour of Orford, and have been to and through it numerous times, and never did I think it would be the epicenter of a huge controversy.
But it is.
Recently, the town reassessed all the property for tax purposes. And in what’s become a major point of contention, factored into the values were their “views.” Some found their assessed values going up by six figures, with corresponding hikes in property taxes — and our tax rates are pretty damned high already.
To quote the newspaper about one particular example:
Selectman David Bischoff, who also voted against the new valuation, could not be reached for comment yesterday. A one-room cabin he owns in a remote cow pasture that is two miles from the nearest electric line and has no phone service, no water and no septic system, was valued at $22,900 — plus $140,000 for its view of nearby hills and distant mountains.
Others have chimed in on this notion, among them a fellow New Hampshire blogger who, unlike me, actually owns property, has spoken out against it several times. But lack of qualifications has never stopped me from opining before, and I’m not about to start now.
It seems to me that property taxes should be on your property. If you have to pay a tax on what you own, it should solely be on what you actually own. You don’t own your view — all you’re seeing is other people’s property, and (in theory) they could do whatever they like with what you’re viewing, and you have no say in it.
(Yes, there have been exceptions, where someone sues over a fence that blocks their ocean view or the like, but those aren’t quite the same.)
The only way I would ever accept a “view tax” would be if the taxing authority would guarantee that absolutely nothing would ever happen to “my” view — no trees cut down, no buildings put up, no forest fires, no foggy mornings, no blights or gypsy moth infestations to denude the trees, no changes whatsoever. And since they can’t guarantee that, then they have no business charging me for it.
We New Hampshirites tend to be an ornery bunch. We don’t like to make fusses, but when you bother us too much and try too hard to take what we work for, we fight back — and hard. Right now Orford’s selectmen are defying a state order to use those new and “improved” assessments, and I suspect there will be some very ugly fights in Concord over this issue — and I hope Orford wins.