Monday, February 05, 2007

$33.3 Billion Worth of Real Estate?

Yes, folks, that's the total of the latest Grand List in town, in case you wanted to know what all the McMansions are worth. Of course, the total includes what your scribe's precocious grade-school son described to the First Selectman in 1985 as the "ratty little shacks that sell for $250,000"; those same RLS's today are starting to go for north of a million bucks. It also includes about $7 billion of commercial real estate, but excludes, of course, the hundreds of acres of parkland, beaches, schools, municipal buildings, ecclesiastical holdings, and other tax-exempt property. At a guess, if all that were factored in, the Town of Greenwich would be worth at least $50 billion.

Ah, yes, we also need to factor in the three classic types of fudge factors: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Greenwich is known for its low taxes, and ways must be found to keep them low. Thus you will see that the UST building, for example - the future home to dozens of hedge funds, as readers of this blog already know - is listed at $69,421,380. But wait a minute - didn't it just sell for almost twice that amount? Oops. Guess the assessment was wrong.

Likewise, Horse Island, the O'Malley residence off Mead Point, was assessed at $16,488, 710. Do you think, dear reader, that the O'Malleys would seriously consider an offer at that level? Not in your dreams. They might start to listen at $25 million, but would probably not accept anything less than $30 million. And even then, as you would know if you took a look at the Great Estates book published by the Junior League, you'd be getting a bargain.

So what does this tell us? What IS the actual monetary value of Greenwich, Connecticut? We're only talking the land and buildings here; if you want to buy the hedge funds and other businesses located here, they will cost you extra. Does $100 billion sound about right? It's probably pretty close, as of today's date. Not bad, considering the original settlers traded the natives 24 used coats for the town back in 1640.

Just for fun, let's look at some of the other fancier properties in Town, and their latest assessed values. The old Commodore Benedict estate, down next to Indian Harbor Yacht Club, is rated at $21,269,500. Round Island, on the other side of IHYC, is tagged at $16,758,070. That property, formerly owned by Patricia and Frederick Supper of croquet and Palm Beach fame, now belongs to the uncle of the late Dodi al-Fayed; he bought it, so the story goes, in hopes of offering it to Dodi and Princess Diana as their American residence. And sure enough, the tax bill goes straight from Town Hall to the Ritz in Paris, the site from which the couple departed on their fatal ride.

To digress, your scribe is one of those who would have liked to see Cousin Di (we share a common colonial American ancestor) walking the streets of our fair town. My guess is that she would have been a lot more gracious than some of the snooty interlopers who come to shop - and sometime live - here. I'll bet she also would have been quick to tell off Jimmy Lash about his airhead idea of taking the bobbies - er, policepeople - off Greenwich Avenue. Heck, she might even have brought in some real bobbies to spruce up the town.

In case you were wondering, dear reader, why the local country club memberships are so high, consider the case of the Round Hill Club. Their 210 acres were assessed at $47.7 million. Yeah, that's a lot, but if the club ever decided to sell out to a developer, the fifty or so resulting four-acre lots would easily go at $5-10 million a pop. So the Town Assessor is constantly battling with the clubs to try to come up with a more realistic figure; this means the clubs have to hire attorneys to fight their assessments, and thus your monthly bill keeps going up. Well, no one ever said life in this Town would be cheap.


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