Augusta County to pay $600,000 to Hershey for over-assessment of Stuarts Draft plant

Hershey 1By Lynn R. Mitchell

Remember the tax revolt from 2009 when ordinary citizens in Augusta County protested that the government had over-assessed their properties just as the real estate bubble burst? (See Largest crowd ever … 1,000 residents protest taxes at Augusta BOS meeting and Augusta tax revolt was a huge success.)

It looks as if Augusta County also overestimated the value of the Hershey Manufacturing Plant in Stuarts Draft by valuing it for $30 million when in reality it was closer to $15 million.

Reporter Brad Zinn at the Staunton News Leader is reporting that, four years after the case originally began, the county and Hershey have come to an agreement with the county paying Hershey $600,000, an amount that is due within 10 days (see Augusta Co. to pay Hershey $600,000 in tax settlement.)

According to the News Leader, when Hershey protested the evaluation amount, the county dug in its heels just as it did in 2009 with residential assessments:

The company argued that Augusta County’s property assessment of the Stuarts Draft plant substantially exceeded the fair market value of the property.

The county initially denied the allegations and stood by its assessments, court records indicate.

Tuesday’s settlement nixed a planned two-day trial scheduled to begin Oct. 22 in Augusta County Circuit Court.

Obviously Hershey had deeper pockets to fight this than Francis Chester who worked pro bono in 2009 for more than 10,600 Augusta County residents (see Augusta assessment petitions: 10,047 10,600 signatures).

The county pounded down on Mr. Chester by fining him $2,500 for daring to go up against them (see Augusta BOS: “Be careful how you speak out against out decisions”), and he was declared a hero by news outlets and county residents (see News Virginian: Francis Chester, Augusta County hero):

WOOL MAN: Francis Chester, a Churchville lawyer and sheep farmer, returned to a favorite place this week, center stage, to resume his battle over Augusta County’s reassessment. Chester arrived in court sporting patented duds, a jacket for which the material apparently was derived from the farm. The people love Chester. The county despises him. To the latter, what else can we say? Too baaad. [emphasis added]

And then those who were represented by this nationally-known country lawyer and sheep farmer said thank you (see Augusta residents say thank you, Francis Chester).

More from the Augusta County tax revolt of 2009:
1,000 protest taxes … largest crowd ever at Augusta Govt Center
“You motivated us to come out”
The bloggers at BOS meeting

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