Aldevron co-founder wants tax value of his West Fargo mansion slashed – InForum

FARGO — The executive chairman and co-founder of the Aldevron biotechnology company is appealing the assessed value of his West Fargo mansion.

Michael Chambers, who sold the privately held company along with his business partner last year for $9.6 billion, is asking officials to reduce the tax assessed value of his residential property from $6.1 million to $3.4 million, which he argues is the true market value as determined by two independent, local appraisers.

Rob Manly, a lawyer for the Vogel Law Firm that’s representing Chambers, told Cass County commissioners at their Board of Tax Equalization hearing on Monday, June 6, that he was happy to see the value was placed in “pending status.”

He said that would give Tami Norgard, a lawyer who has researched the home value issue and wrote a 16-page report to the county, time to meet further with County Director of Equalization Paul Fracassi and West Fargo City Assessor Nick Lee and hopefully “amicably work out” an agreement.

Fracassi said he had not yet viewed the property, but would, and that the valuation would be discussed again when he makes a recommendation to the commissioners for a final decision on the value at their next meeting on Monday, June 20.

In general, municipalities use a property’s assessed value to calculate how much property tax the owner must pay.

The dispute at hand centers around the main house on Chambers’ property, while Lee said the two sides are close to agreeing on the assessed value of the other house that sits on the property along the southern end of Sheyenne Street.

Norgard said in her letter to Fracassi and county commissioners that the main house, finished in 2020, is valued “in far excess of any other home valuation in North Dakota.”

She said one of the “most significant flaws in the city’s calculation is that the city assessor is heavily relying on costs of construction as evidence of market value.”

The building permit for the property listed construction costs at $4.1 million.

West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis, who heard an earlier appeal that Chambers made to West Fargo’s equalization board about the value, noted the building permit as the city’s board lowered the value by only about $13,000 and then passed the request onto the county for a final determination .

The proposed assessed value that West Fargo officials gave Fracassi and county commissioners was the main home at $4.8 million, with the 8.7 acres of land at $872,200 and the other home and an additional metal building at $489,000.

Chambers’ request, based on the independent appraisals, argues for a value on the main home of $1.9 million.

Lee, however, is recommending no change in the value assessed by the city.

The West Fargo city assessor argued in a letter to county commissioners that Chambers suggests “the value must be lower than the cost on these executive homes as they are highly customized and unaffordable to the general public. I agree with this line of thinking, but we differ on the amount of discount to be applied.”

“At $1.9 million, the main house would be receiving an over 65% discount from our estimated replacement cost and the overall property value of $3.47 million wouldn’t even be the highest sale we have seen in town,” Lee wrote. “The main house valuation of the submitted appraisal just doesn’t make sense with recent sales and therefore can’t be relied upon to adjust our equalized valuation.”

In her report, Norgard wrote that the property is considered a “high-value residential property with a very limited market for potential buyers, so it takes longer to attract qualified buyers. As previously determined by the North Dakota Supreme Court, if a property cannot be sold for the assessed value, then the market value must be less than the assessed value.”

She argued the assessed value exceeds the true value of the Chambers family home.

“In short, the city cannot use a computer model generated tax assessed value that is higher than the market would justify,” Norgard wrote.

“The city’s valuation does not reflect what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the property, particularly in the West Fargo market,” she wrote. “The city’s valuation should not be adopted by the board and a downward correction is required.”

She pointed to other properties, including a south Fargo home with an indoor pool, much like the Chambers home, and is valued at $1.3 million.

County Commissioner Mary Scherling, however, said it was “difficult to find comparables” to the Chambers home and that the city of West Fargo’s assessment was based mainly on what it might cost to replace it.

Neighbors of the Chambers family, Deanne Schatz and Michael Svaleson, are also objecting to their property appraisal. Their assessed value increased $680,700 in the newest appraisal from $1.9 million to $2.6 million.

Schatz said other neighbors didn’t have the same increases. Norgard is also representing these property owners and wrote a seven-page appeal that will be examined further.

When the sale of Aldevron was announced about a year ago, the Danaher Corporation said it had an agreement to purchase the privately held company that has been a major producer of a key ingredient for the COVID-19 vaccine .

Aldevron, founded in 1998 in a small laboratory on the campus of North Dakota State University by Chambers and John Ballantyne, has been growing with what a top executive called “breakneck speed.”

The company, with its headquarters in south Fargo, employs about 600 people and manufactures high-quality plasmid DNA, mRNA and proteins for biotechnology and biopharmaceutical customers engaged in research, clinical and commercial applications.

Forum reporter Wendy Reuer contributed to this report.

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