Town of Hamilton Residents Protest at Farmers’ Market Opening

 

A resident of the Town of Hamilton holds a sign for Mike Hotaling’s father.

Sharon Risley and Karen Hotaling, two Town of Hamilton residents angry with their revaluations.

Town of Hamilton resident Joe Koen finds meaning in Joni Miller’s 1968 song “Urge for Going.”

State Sen. David J. Valesky (D – Oneida) addresses the crowd on opening day of the 36th Hamilton Farmers Market. Seated are Assemblyman William Magee and Hamilton Village Trustees Margaret Miller, Suzanne Collins and Jim Bona.

Town Residents Express Anger Over New Assessments

By Chris Hoffman

(Hamilton, NY – May 2011)  Saturday, May 7, was the opening day of the Hamilton Farmers Market’s 36th season. After an early morning rain shower, the sun came out to stay, and by 10 a.m., the market was bustling with shoppers eager to enjoy a spring too long coming.

At the gazebo on the Village Green, Village Trustee Russell Lura welcomed everyone, then turned the microphone over to Diane Eggert, executive director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York, who spoke on the important role the markets play in keeping farmers and consumers connected.

State Sen. David J. Valesky (D – Oneida) talked about the growth of farmers markets in Central New York and how they benefit the economy and local families, restaurants and institutions that buy locally grown products. Assemblyman Bill Magee (D – Nelson), chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, called farms and farmers the largest and most important industry in New York state and talked about how vital agriculture is to CNY’s future.

Matthew Morgan, deputy commissioner from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets talked about new initiatives to enhance state agriculture and the farmers market program.

Also participating in the ceremony were Village Trustees Margaret Miller, Suzanne Collins and James Bona and Mayor Sue McVaugh.

The Hamilton Farmers Market, in operation every summer since 1976, now has 25 vendors selling produce; 17 selling eggs, dairy and meat; 16 selling honey, jams and syrups; 54 selling crafts; 27 selling baked goods and prepared foods; and 12 selling plants. The market is open every Saturday from May through October from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine.

During the ceremony, several town of Hamilton residents took advantage of having their state representatives for an audience and circulated throughout the crowd, then stopped in front of the speakers’ platform holding signs expressing anger over the recent assessment increases in town properties.

All believe the assessments are unreasonable, and most suggested there is a hidden agenda driving the exorbitant increases. Former Hamilton Town Councilor Scott Mills said the assessments done by the Maxwell Appraisal Service from Syracuse were seriously flawed.

“They did no field work,” Mills said. “The base formula for land assessment used sales that occurred before the real estate bubble burst and, in many instances, total sales prices were used for land with a home and a barn on it, with no adjustments for the structures, producing an unreasonably high price per acre.”

According to Mills, there are massive inequities in the cost per acre of properties contiguous with land in a different township.

“You can have a parcel in the town of Brookfield assessed at $400 per acre right next to another parcel in the town of Hamilton assessed at $1,600 per acre, with no significant physical difference between the two pieces of land,” Mills said.

Resident Joe Koen said his assessment was raised 300 percent, and another resident held a sign for Mike Hotaling’s father, whose land assessment was raised 610 percent. Many expressed the opinion that these kinds of increases will ultimately force people to move out of the area, including farmers with large land holdings.

A downloadable grievance form (Form RP-524) and instructions, as well as in-depth information and a booklet entitled “What To Do If You Disagree With Your Assessment” can be found on the website of state Office of Real Property Tax Services at orps.state.ny.us/.

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