National's neighbors to get tax break

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They turned down Masters Tournament badges and million-dollar offers to keep their homes.

Now they won't be financially punished for it anymore.

Homeowners amid the Augusta National Golf Club's grassy parking lot will get relief this year, after three years of paying taxes that doubled and tripled because of the club's land-buying.

On Monday, the Richmond County Board of Assessors unanimously approved seven applications for "transitional use covenants," which should lower taxes by thousands of dollars so long as residents promise not to sell their homes or move out for 10 years.

"That's wonderful," said Heath Drive resident Bill Garner, 59. "Like I've said before, we really have no intention of leaving unless we're forced to."

The board approved the applications on a recommendation from Chief Tax Appraiser Calvin Hicks. An eighth covenant request was denied because the homeowner lives at Berckmans Road and Wicklow Drive, well south of the National's target area in assembling its 70-acre lot.

Nearly a decade ago, straw buyers and limited liability companies began acquiring residential property west of Berckmans Road. When word got out that Augusta National was behind it, sale prices shot up, speculators moved in on the market and county property assessments -- and taxes -- skyrocketed.

The Board of Assessors denied the covenant to homeowners who applied in 2005. Among them was Herman Thacker, 75, of Stanley Drive, whose taxes that year had more than doubled, from $415 to $1,049.

Board Chairman Charles Smith said there was no physical evidence then that the neighborhood was in transition, but that has changed. The golf club used the parking lot for the first time this year.

"We ought to get the back taxes back," Mr. Thacker said, though he's not counting on it.

Mr. Garner, whose 2007 taxes of $4,180 were nearly triple what they were in 2004, said the club once offered him more than $1 million and rights to purchase four Masters badges per year in exchange for his one-acre lot. He did not want to leave the neighborhood he grew up in nor his elderly mother next door.

Taxes will likely be lowered to amounts comparable to the south side of Heath Drive, where property values weren't affected, Mr. Hicks said Monday. Those homes' 2007 taxes ranged from $475 to $1,318.

If homeowners break their covenants by leaving early, they'll face penalties and double the back taxes that they'd have paid without the exemption, Mr. Hicks said. If a homeowner dies, the covenant is dissolved.

With his tax bills lowered, Mr. Garner said his only gripe with the neighborhood will be the early morning roar of construction trucks as Augusta National continues razing homes.

"That's just part of choosing to stay here," he said.

William Hatcher, 61, of Hillside Lane, said he's content to live within the parking lot, which is an open field 51 weeks of the year.

"It looks like we're Little House in the Meadow," he said. "Everybody's happy now, I'm sure."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (22) Add comment
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tnjsw
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tnjsw 05/13/08 - 07:18 am
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Isn't it amazing what Augusta

Isn't it amazing what Augusta National can do with money. What a bully.

426Hemi
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426Hemi 05/13/08 - 07:20 am
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Forced to leave (potentially)

Forced to leave (potentially) due to a lousy damn golf course? Pathetic!

doubt_it
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doubt_it 05/13/08 - 07:38 am
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If values increase, so should

If values increase, so should taxes. They don't deserve a break anymore than a guy next to high-valued retail property.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 05/13/08 - 08:25 am
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I'll believe the following

I'll believe the following quote from the tax office when pigs fly: "If homeowners break their covenants by leaving early, they'll face penalties and double the back taxes that they'd have paid without the exemption." They cannot collect normal taxes now. How will they collect these penalties when someone leaves town (or merely leaves the county, for that matter)?

hopelee08
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hopelee08 05/13/08 - 08:30 am
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"lousy d&^% golf course"?

"lousy d&^% golf course"? Are you kidding me? This golf course is the financial backbone of the entire CSRA and without this "lousy golf course" this city would indeed by "lousy"!!! They offered the man $1,000,000 dollars...is that so bad?

Interested Citizen
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Interested Citizen 05/13/08 - 08:58 am
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OK Mr Hicks, I would like to

OK Mr Hicks, I would like to know how the assessments of the other homes in & around Augusta have increased....when the housing market has been in the pits?????????

Johnny Chimpo
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Johnny Chimpo 05/13/08 - 09:20 am
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take the million dollars and

take the million dollars and run! [filtered word], start some new memories with mother across town, in a larger home

RogerThornhill
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RogerThornhill 05/13/08 - 09:53 am
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$1,000,000 and 4 badges? Take

$1,000,000 and 4 badges? Take it! Buy the elderly mother better health care and comfort with the money. You'll benefit her much more than allowing her to stay in an almost nonexistant neighborhood. It's one thing to be nostaligic about a place but it's completely different to be stubborn.

gagirl40
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gagirl40 05/13/08 - 10:13 am
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They can have my home for a

They can have my home for a million and 4 badges! I mean I love my home, but A MILLION DOLLARS! Come on! Is there even a million dollar home in Augusta? Shoot, I would be so living at the lake right now if I was that guy! Please Augusta National...find something to do with my neighborhood!!!

Tell it like it is
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Tell it like it is 05/13/08 - 10:33 am
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I too would like to know how

I too would like to know how the assessments of the other homes in & around Augusta have increased....when the housing market has been in the pits The assessors office said Augusta didn't show a decrese. That's bull, the media reports the decrese is nation wide. I live in National Hills and my assesment increased $22,000. Augusta is always complaining they dont'have enough money, but at the end of every year they find millions they claim they didn't know about. We elect officials to take care of our districts but the same old story goes on. I for one would move to Columbia county if I could afford it, but being retired and on a limited income I can't.
Welcome to Augusta the name Disgusta stills stands and will until the officials stop trying to bled us dry.

weekapaug05
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weekapaug05 05/13/08 - 10:43 am
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Yeah but if it's $1 million

Yeah but if it's $1 million this year w/ 4 badges, but by holding out now I'm willing to bet these home owners are banking on the offer going up in the future. The only other directions they can expand is into the Vinelands (I know they already own some of the properties on W. Vineland) or across Washington Rd. into National Hills (which makes less sence)

426Hemi
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426Hemi 05/13/08 - 10:57 am
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Buck for 4 million, and 25

Buck for 4 million, and 25 badges. Let's see them dicker a little. If it's worth 1 mill right off the bat, then they have play room. My pockets didn't get padded from this venue, unlike the umpteen hotels that screw folks out of their dough. Make a dog park out of the national, and don't worry about the flowers and crap-"they" say dogs are color-blind.

jack
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jack 05/13/08 - 02:18 pm
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426Hemi, better to make your

426Hemi, better to make your yard a doggy park than the beutiful Naional, which is a treasure for Augusta both nationally and internationally.

REP
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REP 05/13/08 - 02:48 pm
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I agree lets tax the elderly

I agree lets tax the elderly people that have been there for 20 plus years raised their families poured heart and soul into the property they worked years to own and love into selling their family homes so the national can tear down more of the houses and have a bigger parking lot. Please hear the sarcasm in my voice. Just b/c someone offers a ridiculous amount for the property shouldn't force the owners into bankruptcy trying to pay their taxes nor should the national be able to beat people over the head with a huge tax bill to force a sale they would not get otherwise. Don't think they weren't hoping some would have to sell due to the tax increase that's just naive.

ionlyknow
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ionlyknow 05/13/08 - 03:28 pm
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LOL gagirl I so agree with

LOL gagirl I so agree with you. If somebody offered me a million for my 67,000 house and 4 badges to the Masters (ebay bound) I can take a small vacation every year selling the badges and be fishing from my pier at Clark Hill.....

usncporet
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usncporet 05/13/08 - 04:33 pm
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REP- you're an idiot. If

REP- you're an idiot. If someone offered me that kind of money and my mother was sick, I'd be looooong gone. You think they won't sell within the 10 years if her health gets worse? No home in that part of the Hill is older than 1958 anyway - and it ain't like Washington slept there. They'll be wishing they'd taken that mil.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 05/13/08 - 10:41 pm
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Please someone tell me why

Please someone tell me why this guys is paying less in taxes living next to the National then what I pay in taxes in Harrisburg?

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 05/13/08 - 10:58 pm
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Well, If someone is willing

Well, If someone is willing to buy the land for that much and pay the taxes let them do it. In the mean time pay the Taxes on the value of the land. The land Is worth it to them let them contribute to the school system and the spending of the commissioners. I'm tired of paying high taxes in a high crime county. If the propery on all sides of my propery sold for over a million I would expect to pay taxes on a property that cost a million in hopes they would offer 2 million. Besides how else are we gonna pay for the new park at the Regency mall site.. Laff. The problem is the county is going to reduce the property values on the open land in the next few years when the National claims it as farm land. It just blows my mind that places like Thompson Farms in East Augusta only has to pay $5478.87 for 1219.18 acres of land on well over 3 miles of the river. and Kimberly Clark only pays $1677.88 for 314.8 acres of land.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 05/13/08 - 11:23 pm
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Oh and the Kimberly Clark

Oh and the Kimberly Clark land is on a mile of the river too.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 05/13/08 - 11:41 pm
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Just who is this HAROLD

Just who is this HAROLD THOMPSON of Thomson Farms? Why is he only paying $8738.18 for 1949.63 arcres of land on over three miles on river front property in Richmond County? What's going on at the tax assxofrers office??

devilishlymad67
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devilishlymad67 05/14/08 - 07:08 am
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maybe part of the problem

maybe part of the problem with this country is people who worship the almighty dollar. I refused to sell my land and home when an electric company wanted to buy them. That is land is my grandparents and I will be danged if money becomes more important then my heritage. It is bad enough they made a freaking club house out of the home my great-grandfather owned!

Freeman
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Freeman 05/14/08 - 08:45 pm
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Well I say the ones who have

Well I say the ones who have not sold will pay in the end. The national uses 'scare' tactics in this town to get what it wants, and no one refuses the bosses who run it for other fears I cannot mention publicly.. bottom line folks, the national pumps the local economy and we're all buying it. If they folded the course today and moved to another town, just how long would RC be in existence? So the threat is always there... treat them nice and kudos all the time ...or else! I think it's the same anywhere, just a bunch of rich guys who get their jollies off while jerking the whole city around, and they talk about it on the course like we are all the private joke of the elite... sorry, I just don't like golf, or the national, never have, never will. And I for one got ripped off when my brother sold my mom's house to them, because I listened to the fear tactics he was preaching and the taxes drove him to sell to them. So now they plan to ease the tax burden after they've got enough land to quench their thirst? Who's running the show? Money bags, that's who.

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