John and Judith Guibert were recently met with an unpleasant surprise: For 15 years, they were taxed on land they did not own.
The Orange County residents discovered that 0.37 acres of their land belonged to Lake Orange Inc., a property development firm in the area. This means that while the county had been collecting property tax on 1.9 acres of land, the Guiberts only owned 1.53 acres.
In a meeting of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners on Sept. 17, the couple presented their case, which was originally scheduled for June 4 before it was postponed.
“When we originally filed this request, we were notified by staff… that they’d approve it,” John Guibert said. “The day before, actually, that the meeting (on June 4) was to be held, we got a phone call from one of the people in the tax office saying that the paper that was now being recommended denied our claim.”
The meeting on Sept. 17 saw the Guiberts formally present their request to the commissioners. Representatives from the office of the Orange County Tax Commissioner also accompanied them.
In a presentation put together by her office, Orange County Tax Administrator Nancy Freeman established that Lake Orange Inc. owned all of the land between the 615’ and 620’ contour lines — markers of elevation used to demarcate property boundaries — of the lake. Freeman also acknowledged that the county adjusted property boundaries to ensure the Guiberts would no longer be forced to pay taxes on the property they did not own.
Commissioner Mark Dorosin expressed concern with the situation at the meeting.
“That’s the real issue, right. We have collected twice on the same piece of property,” he said. “What we ought to do is refund the taxes.”
Because state law establishes a five-year statute of limitations on tax refund payments, the Guiberts were only able to request a refund on tax payments made between 2014 and 2018 –a total of $1,658.15 – despite owning the property since 2003.