Valley Falls Manor Hosts Tax Dispute, Rare Court Appeal

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 12:00 am  

The couple’s accusations against Ferguson and his business entities included breach of contract, implied warranty of inhabitability, negligence and deceit.

Ferguson denied those allegations and declined to take back what then was described as a $3.6 million property.

The disagreement followed a breakdown in the business relationship between Ferguson and Steve Wortman and an unwinding of their mutual investments.

The Assessor’s Office cut the Wort-mans slack on the valuation of the upscale residence until its alleged construction deficiencies were cured. The property was carried on the tax rolls at about $1.6 million. The current valuation of the land alone is $800,000, according to the assessor.

“We’ve had that property at a lower value because of all the problems they had,” Thompson said. “But this year we put on the books for the full value we think it is.”

The size of the home is an ongoing controversy that remains unresolved. The Assessor’s Office made efforts to verify the square footage with an inspection of the home.

“They’ve never let us into the house,” Thompson said. “We’ve scheduled to do a walk-through with them three times. But they’ve always had a last-minute conflict when it was time to do it.”

Points of contention in the differing valuation positions include the 2,250-SF finished basement and an enigmatic upper room.

“Anecdotally, we’ve heard it is an office area, a man cave or something,” Thompson said. “But it can only be accessed by elevator. We were originally told it doesn’t exist. Because of the accessibility, the building code doesn’t allow it to be lived in, so it’s counted as storage area. They call it storage area.”

The haggling over valuation started in July with the Wortmans initially trying to lower the total living area to 10,000 SF.

During a phone call, Steve Wortman tried to convince the assessor that some of the second-floor space designated as living area was actually vaulted ceiling area above the first floor.

Building plans conflicted with that math. Without an interior inspection of the house, the assessor’s configuration of space remains the official square footage count.

Downing believes the back-and-forth haggling over comparable residential valuations and on-again, off-again walk-throughs of the Wortman home produced more grist to the ongoing dispute with county officials.

“I think they didn’t like it, and as a result, that added to their argument against Steve’s valuation,” he said.

If the appeals effort goes beyond circuit court, the next stop would be the Arkansas Supreme Court.



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