The V.I. government is very close to a settlement in a District Court case involving how commercial property tax assessments are made.
James Derr, the attorney who represents the property owner who brought the suit last August, Gary Berne, confirmed that the two sides were to meet Monday with Judge Thomas Moore.
"Everyone is very pleased" with the outline of the settlement. Derr said. He would not discuss the terms.
Neither of the government attorneys handling the case, Richard Pendergast and Wayne Andersen, were immediately available for comment.
Moore had been scheduled to decide Friday whether the case would apply to all similarly situated property owners in the Virgin Islands or only Berne's companies and those of a second litigant that joined his suit, Twenty-One Queens Quarter Inc. (the C&M Caron Building). The trial was to start Monday. But the government approached the plaintiffs shortly before the Friday hearing.
An unfavorable court decision for the government could have a drastic effect on government revenues if it applied to all property owners.
Berne contended that the tax assessor based his assessment of the properties owned by his companies, Berne Corp. and B & B Corp.. (Berne Alley in Charlotte Amalie) on what it would cost to replace them rather than their actual value. The difference, he said, was millions of dollars.
The C & M Caron complaint is similar.
Although the cases pertain only to commercial property, Derr said when they were filed that the principle might eventually expand to residential property owners.