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Property assessor says changing Davidson County line for homeowner is a bad precedent

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Posted at 12:58 PM, Apr 13, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A move to alter the Davidson County line at the request of one property owner is advancing through the state legislature.

But Davidson County's Assessor of Property, Vivian Wilhoite, opposes the move, and said it could open the flood gates for others to try and leave the county to avoid paying higher property taxes.

"This is going to be a big deal that could open Pandora's box," Wilhoite said.

The request to move the county line is being made by Music Row executive Mason Hunter, who owns three side-by-side parcels of land in Old Hickory.

Two of the lots, including his home, sit in Davidson County, but part of his pool and one of his two driveways sit on a parcel in Wilson County.

He is asking lawmakers to move the line so that all three of his properties are in Wilson County.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "He's saying this is crazy. We're straddling the line, why not make it all one?"

"That's no reason to move the tax base of Davidson County," Wilhoite responded.

Hunter recently made his case to state lawmakers who must finalize the measure.

"Put it this way, when my son goes to bed at night, he's in Davidson County. When he gets up in the morning to get his clothes on, he's in Wilson County. When you jump off the diving board, you're in Wilson County, when you swim across the pool to get a beer you're in Davidson County," Hunter said while speaking to the House Public Service Subcommittee.

Davidson County recently passed a major property tax increase of more than 30 percent.

Moving to Wilson County would save Hunter $2,700 a year according to state documents.

Wilhoite said if lawmakers change the line for Hunter, they should change it for many others.

"You have these types of instances all over Davidson County, when you are talking about driving through one county to get to another county," Wilhoite said.

Wilhoite provided examples.

One property has a driveway in Williamson County, but the home is located and pays property taxes in Davidson County.

In another case nine homes are taxed in Davidson County but owners have to drive through Williamson County to get to them.

And Wilhoite said it is really unfair that Hunter's property would suddenly move to Wilson County - while seven neighbors in the cul-de-sac near him would be left in Davidson County.

"Now you are giving this undue benefit to one property owner, then it's unfair to the remaining seven parcels. It's truly unfair to anyone in Davidson County for that matter," Wilhoite said.

State Representative Darren Jernigan, (D) Old Hickory, is co-sponsoring the bill to move the county line.

He said Hunter lives in his district and contacted him about getting the line moved.

"We started the process before the 34% property tax increase, so that really wasn't the issue," Jernigan said.

Jernigan said he told Hunter he would first have to get the Metro Council and the Wilson County Board of Commissioners to agree to move the county line as required by state law.

"You've got to go through a lot of hoops and everybody's got to agree," Jernigan said.

This summer the Metro Council and the Wilson County Commission unanimously passed identical resolutions which support moving the county line.

But Wilhoite said they had bad information.

They were told Hunter's property did not have "adequate" access for emergency responders and school buses from Davidson County.

"It was a vote made on false reasons. That's basically it," Wilhoite said.

Wilhoite provided emails showing Metro Police and an ambulance have responded to the 700 block of General Kershaw Drive this year, and Metro Schools said it would provide bus service.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "In your opinion why did the council approve this?"

"They didn't know," Wilhoite responded.

Jernigan said the resolution was referring to the fact Hunter's driveway in Davidson County is much steeper than his driveway in Wilson County, so that is how emergency vehicles would likely respond.

"If you ask any first responder which driveway they would like to take it's going to be the one in Wilson County," Jernigan said.

He said he did not write the resolution but he knows it was written in "good faith."

"I would say the emergency access situation is probably a secondary issue," Jernigan said.

Jernigan said he is co-sponsoring the bill because Hunter made the case that his life is in Wilson County.

He said Hunter pays utilities, gets car his tags and sends his kids to Wilson County schools.

But records show Hunter had at least one vehicle registered in Davidson County, that listed his current address, when he reported the tags stolen to Metro Police back in January.

Wilhoite said Hunter is making choices to be in Wilson County but that doesn't mean the legislature should move the county line.

She said property assessors across the state oppose the bill because they expect others will want to move.

Jernigan said he helped homeowners move more than 20 parcels out of Davidson in 2013, and there was no rush to leave after that bill.

"When we moved the lines, we heard 'This is going to open the flood gates,' let's fast forward eight years later, and this the first request we've had," Jernigan said.

State Representative Susan Lynn (R) Mt. Juliet, is sponsoring the House bill to move the county line.

She said Wilhoite is overstepping her authority and that property assessors have no say in where county lines are drawn.

The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee this morning.

Some lawmakers said they thought property assessors should have a say in changing county lines going forward.

Supporters cited the fact that both the Metro Council and the Wilson County Commission had voted to approve the change.

Davidson County Assessor Vivian Wilhoite sent the following statement in response to what Representative Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, said about her overstepping her authority:

“Respectfully, I nor any of the Tennessee Assessors, have overstepped their boundary as we, as Assessors, have taken an oath to identify, list, classify and appraise taxable property. Pointing out that a Metro Resolution was passed based on false reasons regarding Davidson County taxable property is not only my concern as an Assessor, but it should be the concern of all Davidson tax payers and elected officials.”