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Northern Idaho prosecutor denies assessment appeal on theme park property

A person can’t appeal the property assessment on land the person doesn’t own, the Kootenai County prosecutor in northern Idaho has determined.

Prosecutor Barry McHugh said he made his decision after analyzing Idaho law and seeking the advice of other counties.

“It was definitely worth taking the time, because it’s a question that needed to be answered, for the board (of commissioners) and for the public,” McHugh told the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Spirit Lake developer Larry Spencer applied to appeal an assessment on Silverwood Theme Park property, contending the property was wrongly granted a timber exemption on developed acreage.

He said he will appeal the county’s decision to the Idaho Board of Tax Appeals.

“Everyone’s property tax assessments affect how much everybody else pays,” he said. “Everybody’s taxes are affected by one exemption.”

McHugh said Idaho code isn’t specific on the issue, only stating that “taxpayers” may file an appeal.

There’s no definition of what taxpayer means,” McHugh said. “Does it mean the taxpayer who owns the property, or has ownership interest? Or does that mean any taxpayer who lives in the county? It’s just an unknown.”

He said Ada and Bannock counties said appeals are only allowed by someone with ownership interest. McHugh determined that only individuals who represent the owners or who have ownership interest can appeal a property assessment.

“I believe that this will be the position of the county, absent either a statute change or a court case that concludes differently,” McHugh said.

Kootenai County Commissioner Dan Green said he will take the advice of the county’s legal department.

“I would say it seems to be a difference of interpretation of statute between Spencer and the prosecutor,” Green said.

Nancy DiGiammarco, a Silverwood spokeswoman, said Spencer doesn’t have approval to represent the company.

“Everything we have done has been by all the rules and regulations,” she said.

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