Mayor sides with east Winston-Salem homeowners in reval fight

Allen Joines
Mayor Allen Joines told a group of east Winston-Salem homeowners last night that there's nothing city government can do to help them, but signaled his solidarity in an election year when black voters are looking for reassurance that their interests are being addressed.

"I'm with you," Joines told about 25 people at a community meeting at Shiloh Baptist Church on Monday evening. "I understand the concern about this revaluation.

"Citizens and residents have worked hard all their life, paid off that mortgage," he continued. "Then, when they retire a little later on in life that piece of property is something that could help them in their later years. They have some asset that they could pass on to their children and things of that nature. So there's something just wrong, I believe, in this process." 

Virginia K. Newell, a retired alderman and retired math professor at Winston-Salem State University who is now a real estate agent, issued a test to Joines, asking him what effect he thought the reappraisal would have on a house that recently went up for sale in her neighborhood.

"Ms. Newell, I would have to believe that potential buyers are going to look at the tax value as some indication of what they believe the value would be," the mayor answered. "I've had some real estate appraisers try to tell me that it really doesn't impact it. But I believe it does. When I was looking to buy my house, I looked at what the tax value was and tried to make some decisions along those lines. I believe it would have a negative impact. You're in real estate. You probably know better than I do."

Joines said he supports legislation NC Rep. Ed Hanes Jr. has pledged to file that would freeze property values at their valuation before the recent reappraisal. Joines said he plans to take a resolution in support of the Hanes bill to city council on March 25, adding that he is confident his colleagues will support it.
Led by the Rev. Paul Lowe Jr., the residents also agreed to seek a meeting with the Forsyth County Board of Equalization and Review to address deep drops in property values in predominantly African-American neighborhoods at a systematic level.

Forsyth County Commissioner Walter Marshall, who represents District A, encouraged residents to get involved in the process of appointment for the board of equalization, which hears appeals to tax revaluations. He said there is one black member of the five-member board, Richard Davis. Marshall said the Republican-controlled county commission allows the two black Democrats to appoint one person to the board. Residents of east Winston-Salem should engage Davis to find out if he's sensitive to their concerns, Marshall said. If not, they should find someone else to request appointment and tell their District A representatives so they can lobby their Republican colleagues on the county commission. 

The deadline for applications is March 20, and the county commission will make the appointments on March 25.

Ruth Carter, a resident of the East Ward, articulated fears in the community that the significant depreciation in values sets the east side of Winston-Salem up for a wave of gentrification.

"Something is going to happen over here in east Winston that's going to take our homes, whether we want 'em to or not," Carter said. "This is what I'm looking at. Now, I don't know about you, but this is my gut feeling: They are lowering the tax [value] on our houses in order for us to give 'em up. I tell you: I'm going to fight it."

Joines is a strong supporter of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, formerly known as Piedmont Triad Research Park, the Salem Creek Connector and other initiatives to make the eastern flank of downtown more attractive and vital.

"I can understand your concern," Joines told Carter. "That's the reason I think we all got to stick together here. There has been some discussion of class-action lawsuits and things of that nature."


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