Land values in Gwinnett take big jump

LOGANVILLE - Richard Cannon doesn't believe anyone would pay $222,000 for his 50-year-old ranch-style house.

But that's the value property assessors recently placed on the southern Gwinnett home off Rosebud Road.

That's a huge jump from the previous assessment of $86,500.

"That would be $100 per handful of dirt," Cannon said. "That's ridiculous."

But Chief Assessor Steve Pruitt said that's just the price of success in Gwinnett.

"Land values in Gwinnett County - the sales we are seeing are just astronomical," Pruitt said.

His office mailed 45,000 reappraisals last week and another 15,000 are scheduled to go out next week.

Because a state law requires the county to make sure it is charging taxes for the fair market value of the land, the assessor's office generally tries to revalue property for a third of the county each year.

Once the appraisers crunch numbers such as recent sales values in the area and size of the house and land around it, Pruitt said the county has to rely on homeowners to point out the reasons the value shouldn't be so high.

"We come up with one standard that fits the same neighborhood. It occasionally gets us in trouble," Pruitt said.

But people have a right to appeal the assessor's value by writing a letter explaining why they disagree, he added.

While Pruitt didn't speak specifically to Cannon's case, he said properties with several acres of land are the most likely to go up in value.

While home values are going up an average of 5 percent a year, land values go up about 33 percent each year, he said. In some spots, developers are buying land for $100,000 an acre.

Cannon, who has lived on a street named after his father since he was 13 years old, disputes the amount of land the county is claiming he owns. A survey puts his property at just under 2 acres while the assessor statement places it higher.

In a still growing corner of the county, the neighborhoods springing up in the area could increase the values.

Many of Cannon's neighbors are seeing similar surges.

John Rolader, whose 1930s-era house sits on 4 acres, is looking at a land value of $317,600, much higher than the $186,600 it was in the past. Olin Stephens' land jumped from $157,400 to $244,700.

"I thought that was an awful lot, but it's not as much as the others," Stephens said. "But if it went up that much every three years, I can't handle it."

The problem is not so much in the land values but in the taxes that come with it.

The three men will have a partial break on that, though, because of an exemption that allows people to pay county taxes based on the previous value until the home is sold. The exemption does not apply to any state, city or school taxes.

Living near the Gwinnett line, in an area where cows and horses are still popular, the men said they aren't happy with paying higher taxes, especially since the nearest police and fire stations are miles away.

"It it was a reasonable amount, I wouldn't object," said Stephens, who has already filed his appeal letter.