Duluth school district buys home for nearly 3 times its appraised valueA Duluth man who refused to sell his city-appraised $86,200 home for the new western middle school project finally did — for $250,000.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
A Duluth man who refused to sell his city-appraised $86,200 home for the new western middle school project finally did — for $250,000.
The sale of David Gaskell’s home at 3402 Vernon St. to the Duluth School District appeared Monday in the News Tribune’s property transaction listings. The sale holds the Duluth record since at least 2007 for the biggest margin between the city-appraised value of a home and its sale price.
Gaskell, who didn’t return calls this week, has commented publicly at School Board meetings stating he would not move unless the district offered more money.
In July, the board approved the purchase of his property. Gaskell told the News Tribune last fall he had spent years pouring more than $100,000 into his home to make it handicap-accessible for himself after a spinal injury. He said what the district would pay him wouldn’t allow him the same type of home elsewhere.
Board member Gary Glass voted against the sale because he disagrees with the entire western middle school project. But he said the city assessment, which is done without viewing the inside of a home, doesn’t reflect the amount of improvements — such as those to air quality — Gaskell had made to the house.
He said Gaskell had shown district officials and board member Tom Kasper the inside of the home and had gone out with real estate agents to find equivalent homes for his medical needs.
“He found $300,000 homes with the same features,” Glass said. “In some ways he looks at it as he didn’t get as good a deal as he would have if he had known about the situation earlier and not put money into the house.”
Board Chairman Tim Grover said Gaskell’s property was the final purchase for the Lincoln Park Middle School, and was needed for the road leading to the school. It was the best option to minimize the neighborhood impact of the new road, he said.
“So it was a property that was very desirable to us,” he said.
If Gaskell hadn’t negotiated, said Superintendent Keith Dixon, the district would have had to pay $150,000 on top of what it paid Gaskell to go around the house, because the road would have needed to be lengthened and would have required a steeper grade.
Thus far, the district hasn’t resorted to using eminent domain for any part of the Red Plan.
“Eminent domain has a price: an emotional price and a financial price,” Dixon said. “It costs tens of thousands of dollars to go through an eminent domain process. When you add it up, this is a pretty reasonable settlement.”
The district is required to pay certain costs for acquiring property, such as those for relocation, Dixon said, and those are included in the price paid. The district had the house privately appraised and came up with a figure of $155,000.
“We also have to include the costs of identifying a replacement of equal value, condition and the like in the same area,” Dixon said. “Generally, we work with a person to buy a home. If it’s worth more, we need to pay that difference. In this case, what Mr. Gaskell wanted was to be paid out for those things versus us finding him another piece of property.”
City assessor John Gellatly said most homes are sold for more than their appraised amount, but a home sold that much above its appraised worth is uncommon.
“If we had a bunch of sales like that, our ratios would be bad, and the Department of Revenue would be up here talking to us,” he said.
The 2011 assessment for the Vernon Street home, built in 1922, is listed with the city as $86,200. The home has 968 square feet and a 960-square-foot detached garage. The lot, with five parcels, is 9,380 square feet.