JACKSON COUNTY, MO (KCTV) – Online pictures of a Jackson County property show nothing more than a simple dirt road, but a tip to the KCTV5 News investigative team turned up a lot more questions.
Like many other properties in the county, the appraised tax value increased in the last assessment, though not to the level of many other homes.
While the property photo listed on a Jackson County parcel viewer shows only a cracked paved and gravel road heading into a field, aerial photos and video from Chopper 5 show a much more developed property, with a mansion, pool, a structure that appeared to be a poolside cabana and caretaker’s cottage.
It all sits on 36 acres and is hardly a secret to the county.
The photos of events at the property and the aerial images seem inconsistent with the property’s county tax valuation of $690,941, up from $450,215 last year.
Three independent real estate agents told KCTV5 News this property would be difficult to price because of its unique and extravagant elements, but all three said the current value was a far cry from an accurate valuation.
Two of the realtors estimated the value to be at least $2 million to $3 million.
“The owners of this property are getting a major break on their property taxes,” one of the realtors told KCTV5 News. “I'm very surprised the county failed to assess it correctly, especially since this (one property alone) would bring in a significant amount of money into the county coffers.”
“It’s just another reason why the assessor’s department should start all over, using the multiple listing service and try not to raise values in one single swoop,” the other realtor added. “It makes you wonder how many others in the county are undervalued… That’s just not right.”
Jackson County Executive Frank White and his appointed Director of Assessment Gail McCann Beatty have previously stated it is their job to bring Jackson County properties to market value.
White has also refused to answer questions from KCTV5 News, including questions about inconsistent assessments for homes in the same neighborhoods, inaccurate property descriptions and why the county no longer using MLS data.
During the first week of July, White released the following statement:
“The County remains committed to ensuring that the assessment process is both fair and accurate. The proposal discussed at today's Board of Equalization's (BOE) meeting proposes to set arbitrary caps on valuation increases, regardless of the property's true value. However, state law requires the BOE, like the County Assessor, ensure properties are assessed at their true value.”
KCTV5 News continued digging into documents for the property and discovered the owner is Ken McClain, a well-known attorney and developer in Jackson County. McClain is also a friend of White.
According to the Kansas City Star, when White was in financial trouble and unable to pay his mortgage, McClain footed the bill, paying through another attorney. McClain refused to comment for that report.
The Star also reported White said he received “no loans from Ken McClain,” though he did not answer if someone else paid the loan through McClain.
White and Beatty did not directly respond to our questions about this property, but a spokesperson released this statement:
“During the 2019 reassessment process, county assessors increased the market value of this property to $690,941. This value was an increase of the property’s 2018 value of $240,726, or a 53% increase. The 2019 valuation was determined, in part, due to research showing the home on the property was on the historic register, the square footage of the property is approximately 5,900 square feet and there are no permits on record providing any indication of renovations or improvements. In addition, due to the gating of the property, it was not possible for assessment staff to determine if renovations or improvements had occurred.
The County is committed to ensuring that each and every property is fairly and accurately assessed.”
KCTV5 News questioned how the county could blame gates when the assessor’s office supposedly uses aerial photography. Google Map photos clearly reveal what the property looks like today.