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FERNWOOD RESORT TAX ASSESSMENT APPEAL

It involves two companies that are affiliated with the resort, and are looking for a legal means of reducing the timeshares' combined $2.8 million property tax bill by about one-third. Monroe County Assessment Board attorney Mark Love sought the reassignment, on the grounds that Monroe's judges had conflicts of interest that would make it impossible for them to impartially preside over this case.

Monroe County Court referred the matter to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, which assigned Stine to the case. Monroe County Court Administrator Lyn Bailey said no court date has been set.

Monroe County President Judge Margherita Patti Worthington is the wife of Andrew Worthington, who is the chief officer and shareholder of HRP and HA RA. Those companies own Treetops and Fairway Villas timeshares near Route 209 and River Road. Nearly 90 percent of the $2.8 million tax bill goes to the East Stroudsburg School District, with the remainder collected by Middle Smithfield and the county.

Fernwood is pushing for assessment reductions on 569 townhouse units and 96 vacant building sites, with assessments totaling $14 million. The county Assessment Appeals Board reduced the combined assessed value of 330 two-bedroom units from about $6 million to $5.2 million, but left in place the assessed values of most other parcels totaling about $8 million.

Fernwood challenged that, and appealed the decision to county court and commissioned its own appraisal in an effort to justify additional reductions. An appraisal firm retained by the county called the Fernwood report "misleading" for using a disputed cost method and allegedly failing to fully disclose property details.



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