One Harker Heights man said he will probably have to sell the remainder of his property due to the amount of property taxes he and his business partner pay on the land.
Paul Mennor, 76, said he has been in the Harker Heights area for around 60 years and used to own Green Leaf Nursery next to Heights Lumber & Supply on Farm-to-Market 2410.
When he closed the nursery, Mennor sold the front part of the property to Twin Peaks; the restaurant subsequently became Richard Rawlings’ Garage. Mennor currently owns the back half of the property, which is a 1.1-acre vacant piece of land.
Mennor said his property value increased by almost 400%. According to data on the Bell County Appraisal District’s website, the property value increased in 2017 from $99,143 to $380,707.
“I don’t think I’ll ever sell my property for what I want for it and what it was worth,” Mennor said.
The $281,000 appraisal increase raised his property taxes from less than $2,500 per year to more than $9,000 per year.
“My piece of property ... it’s come down to where I’m going to have to sell it for a loss,” Mennor added.
Mennor is not the only one who saw a big increase in property value in 2017 in Harker Heights.
On the other end of FM 2410, past the high school, sits a vacant, 1.46-acre piece of land that is occupied by only a small shack, and a lot of trees.
Wayne Prince, and his wife Andrea, whose name the property is in, said he and his wife saw the value of their property increase from $14,012 to $255,662 in 2017.
The Princes were living out-of-state at the time. As such, Prince said he only knew of the increase by going to the appraisal district’s website.
“I assumed there was some kind of mistake,” Prince said.
After talking with the appraisal district, Prince said he was told it wasn’t a mistake. When he was told that mail notifications were sent out, Prince said he told the appraisal district that he had never received a letter notification of his property taxes since they owned the property — Jan. 11, 2006.
“When I asked them (appraisal district) up front ... the only answer that we ever received was that their properties have been historically under-valued and ‘we’re correcting it,’ or something to that nature,” Prince said.
Billy White, chief appraiser of the Bell County Appraisal District, who was not with the district at the time, said he concurred with the assessment.
“Probably, more than likely, what happened with this property, it probably was well above $14,000 for quite a few years,” White said. “2017 is the year that somebody realized that we hadn’t reviewed that area, up and down that road, in quite a while.”
White said there had been sales of similar-type properties in the area that were valued at a similar ratio of around $4 per square foot.
The Princes have had the property in the family for three generations and have had it on the market for five or six months with Rick Ott, broker and owner of RE/MAX Homestead in Copperas Cove.
Ott said the property is in contract after the Princes accepted an offer for $67,000. The property was listed for $100,000 at the time of the sale, according to the realty company’s website.
Ott said he doesn’t believe that the Princes’ property should have been a comparable property to the others sold in the area.
“The stuff out there that they got that much, or they got anywhere near that, it generally had an operating business on it or was already converted to commercial,” he said. “This is not an income-producing property; you can’t do that.”
Ott said he has verified multiple times with the city of Harker Heights to ensure the Princes’ property was zoned “Residential,” and every time, he has received an affirmative answer from the city.
White said property tax notifications should be sent to county business-owners and residents by the last week of April, but the process may be delayed due to the coronavirus situation.
The appraisal district’s offices in Killeen, Belton and Temple are currently closed to physical service, but the district’s employees are still working, the website says. Limited services are available over the phone, but residents are encouraged to use the online services.