JASPER, Tenn. — A 1992 mapping error led to two would-be property owners paying taxes on the same 35 acres of land, and Marion County leaders have stepped in to reconcile the issue.
At the county commission's February meeting, county Mayor David Jackson said a piece of property off Powell Road north of Powells Crossroads, Tenn., had been owned by the Powell family since the 1800s.
"There was a deed done back a few years ago that took some of that property away from them," he said. "The gentleman that did that was paying taxes on it and quit. [The previous owner] has been paying taxes on it from day one, ever since he took the property over."
Jackson said Marion has been collecting "dual taxes" on the land.
The property that the second landowner quit paying taxes on was sold in a county tax sale, and bought by a third party.
After some investigation, the tax sale purchaser quit paying taxes when he realized his claim to the land was not superior to that of the Powell family and the land should have never been sold in the tax sale.
"This wasn't actually discovered until after [the purchaser] had bought the property in a tax sale," Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger said. "Once the modern technology was used to do the mapping, it was discovered that he actually didn't own anything. The Powell chain of title was superior to the people that had the chain of title that was sold at the tax sale."
The property was pulled from the last tax sale to resolve all the issues associated with it.
"The bottom line is we need to pay [the person] back who bought the property [at the tax sale]," Jackson said. "That's sort of where we're at."
The person who bought the land in the tax sale wasn't seeking damages, Gouger said, but did want a refund for the 2012 purchase price of $9,500.
"We've done this in the past before when there's been a mapping or clerical error in the assessor's office that's resulted in these kinds of conflicts, so there is precedence for doing this," he said.
The board voted unanimously to refund the money.
Commissioner Mack Reeves asked how the board could correct problems like this from occurring in the future.
"It looks bad on the county when we do things like this," he said.
Modern technology, such as the geographical information system that Marion started using several years ago, has greatly improved mapping and shows "right up front" if there's a problem, Gouger said.
"This was done by hand [originally] with a compass and a protractor," he said. "It was pretty vague, so they weren't able to make the same determination back at that time. We don't have very many of these [now]."
Commissioner Donald Blansett added that this particular situation is "not the worst mistake" the county has made with overtaxing properties.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.