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    Naimoli wins at home; taxes pared

    He gets his assessment reduced by $99,630 - more than the median value of Tampa Bay homes.

    By JEFF TESTERMAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 14, 2000


    TAMPA -- When Vince Naimoli looked at the assessment of his five-bedroom, 6 1/2-bath, 14,368-square-foot home in Avila, he decided the number just didn't seem like it was, well, in the ballpark.

    The three-story brick home at 16616 Villalenda De Avila has a circular pool, a tennis court, an 840-square-foot guest house and a distinctive metal sculpture of a swimming devil ray.

    Still, Naimoli thought the $3.8-million figure representing Hillsborough Property Appraiser Rob Turner's calculation of the home's true value was too high. After all, the Devil Rays' owner had paid just $3.2-million to buy the 2.85-acre lot and build the home four years ago.

    So, Naimoli went looking for some tax savings. He hired a lawyer, commissioned his own appraisal and filed a petition with the Value Adjustment Board. At a hearing Monday, Naimoli heard the board decide in his favor.

    "He said, "How could you guys have missed this? I've been paying all this extra money all these years,' " Turner's general counsel, Will Shepherd, recalled.

    Naimoli's assessment was reduced by $99,630, a number that is slightly higher than the median value of homes in the Tampa Bay area.

    Naimoli's tax savings this year should come to nearly $2,400, and Shepherd said he will ask the Florida Department of Revenue if Naimoli is eligible for a refund going back three years because of an error in measuring the area of the house.

    Even with the reduction, Naimoli's tax bill stands at nearly $76,000.

    At a previous hearing, Naimoli prevailed in getting the true market value of his home knocked down from $3.8-million to $3.433-million, based on a remeasurement of the house.

    Turner's office initially had been forced to estimate the square footage of the house at about 16,000 square feet because the appraiser's office was denied access, according to Shepherd. Naimoli's attorneys dispute that, saying no one kept assessors out of the Naimoli homestead.

    After the finger-pointing, Turner's office revisited the home with tape measures and discovered the home was actually 14,368 square feet. Turner's staff also decided it had been too high in its guess on the quality of construction, and made a reduction there.

    But the true market value, or "just value," as the property appraiser calls it, is what the home's assessment would go to if Naimoli sold the home and it lost its homestead status.

    Florida's "Save Our Homes" amendment caps annual assessment increases on homesteads to the lesser of 3 percent a year or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index.

    Monday, at a second hearing, the Value Adjustment Board considered Naimoli's assessment, lowering it from $3.249-million to $3.15-million.

    The new number represents the value set by private appraiser Jamie Myers.

    He said he analyzed 14 sales of comparable homes, including four within the expensive Avila development in north Tampa.

    The assessment reduction, about 3 percent, "is not much in the grand scheme of things," said Shepherd. "But the reality is, with a house like this, it means a significant amount of money."

    - Jeff Testerman can be reached at 813 226-3422 or testerman@sptimes.com.

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