SKOWHEGAN — An undeveloped parcel of land on Hancock Pond in Embden was the center of debate in court on Wednesday.

On one side of the argument, landowner Brad Balise said Somerset County Commissioners did not reduce the property’s value enough when they granted an abatement last June.

On the other side, Embden’s attorney Ken Lexier argued in Somerset County Superior Court that the commissioners used the evidence presented to them from several sources to make a valid decision about the property’s value.

In the middle was Judge John Nivison, who asked many questions and clarified proceedings for Balise, who was representing himself. Nivison will deliberate before deciding whether to uphold the commissioners’ vote.

Last June, commissioners voted to cut about $73,000 off the 70-acre parcel’s 2008 value, bringing it to $94,500. They also cut $82,700 off the 2009 value, bringing it to $96,200.

Balise said he believes his land is worth about $50,000, which is less than the $72,000 he paid for it in 2004. The property has no buildings, and some of it is considered wetlands, making it difficult to obtain access to the pond.

He told Nivison that the abatement process to recover his excess tax payments was corrupt and that commissioners based their decision on inaccurate measurements of wetlands, boundary lines and waterfront property.

“We’ve been treated as if our entire property is dry and usable, and it’s not,” Balise said.

Lexier replied that commissioners made an independent decision based on the evidence provided to them by both Balise and experts. When Balise bought the property, Lexier said, the boom in lakefront property values had not begun.

From 2004 to 2008, Embden lakefront property values increased 300 percent, based on sales in that time, he said. In comparison, the commissioners granted Balise a 2008 value that was only 31 percent greater than the purchase price.

“(Commissioners’) findings are clearly supported, your honor,” Lexier said.

Balise replied that he is glad the property is gauged as being below market value, but the current valuation still does not recognize the actual characteristics of the property.

At one point, Lexier and Balise started talking over one another. Nivison interrupted them and said he would not allow anyone to “cast aspersions on motives or intentions of any other party.”

If Nivison upholds the commissioners’ decision, Balise’s last recourse is the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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