Omaha landowner sees valuation for empty lot increase nearly 3,000%

Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 9:47 PM CDT
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A shock recently came in the mail for hundreds of Douglas County property owners.

Their valuations jumped dramatically. The county assessor said that hot market trends caused a boost for many under-assessed properties.

The green space John Riggleman has neatly kept for 30 years will cost him more greenbacks in taxes because of a valuation increase.

“I’ve done no improvements, so why did it go up for basically about 3,000 percent?” Riggleman asked.

Last year, the assessed value of the lot was $800. This year it’s $24,200.

“I could understand $2,400 or $2,500. I’m thinking, did they make a mistake and add too many zeros?” Riggleman said.

All the neighboring lots -- either empty or with houses on them -- have the same higher assessment value of about $24,000.

“When it was valued lower than it should be, you’re not paying your fair share. Now at some point in time, we have to bite the bullet with statutory responsibilities and bring everyone into equalization,” said Diane Battiato, Douglas County Assessor and Register of Deeds.

Riggleman’s lot has no utilities and only alley access.

The lot does have a 40-foot rocked parking area that’s been this way for about 30 years. Riggleman parks some of his toys here but said this is hardly worth a 3,000 percent increase in the property valuation.

Battiato said Riggleman’s empty lot does not have to stay that way.

“It’s a very build-able lot, he just chooses not to build on it,” she said.

But neighbors don’t see it.

One neighbor said no one is going to pay that kind of money for an empty lot that has no street access.

For years, Riggleman paid about $20 annually in property taxes on the lot, which he estimated could jump to $480 next year.

“I’m not going to get rid of it. I guess I”ll just have to find some way to pay the taxes -- I’m retired and on a fixed income,” he said.

Though maintaining his empty lot, Riggleman said the valuation jump does not fit its curb appeal, so he will be appealing the valuation.

Battiato said preliminary valuations have been available since January and property owners can call in to ask about changes. They have until June 30 to file for an appeal with the Douglas County Board of Equalization.