Berne Corp. and B&B Corp. along with Twenty-One Queen's Quarter Inc. settled their case Tuesday against the Virgin Islands government and the Tax Assessor's Office over how property tax assessments are made.
The parties agreed that the District Court will select "a special independent master" mutually acceptable to the parties to review the procedures and process of commercial property assessments.
Both attorney James Derr, representing Berne, and attorney David Bornn, representing Twenty-One Queen's Quarter, said they are bound by the agreement not to discuss or interpret it.
But Bornn said, "The individual parties are pleased with the settlement. They have given up something to get something and more importantly the general public has gained quite a lot. The terms of the agreement speak for itself."
The suit alleged that the government was assessing commercial properties based on replacement value rather than actual value and that the method resulted in inflated assessments.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Government House released a written statement announcing that "upgrades and improvements are being made to the office of the Virgin Islands Tax Assessor" and that legislation is being prepared to update the tax assessment of properties in the territory.
The release did not mention the suit or the settlement, but it quoted Gov. Charles W. Turnbull saying that "having a current, accurate assessment of the property values in the territory and an office which is equipped to better serve the public will benefit all of the people of the Virgin Islands."
The settlement document provides that the "master" will be appointed within 30 days. He or she will:
* "Review the procedures and process to be used by the Virgin Islands Tax Assessor's Office in appraising commercial properties pursuant to a mass appraisal approach and Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (Hereinafter referred to as 'USPAP') Standards. For appeal purposes only, USPAP standards for single property appraisal will apply (Subject to Jurisdictional Exception of USPAP)."
* Certify the procedures to be used as proper.
* Do appropriate random sampling of no more than 10 percent of assessments for compliance.
* Submit a report to the court, as to compliance, every 180 days for two years.
* Provide the parties copies of the compliance report no less than 30 days prior to giving the report to the court.