Recently, some homeowners in the Kent County section of Milford received letters from the City of Milford telling them that they would owe no property taxes for the tax year starting October 1, 2017. Instead, their taxes were paid from the Peter DeVisser Tax Relief Fund, a trust set up by Mr. DeVisser in his last will and testament.
“All the rest, residue and remainder of my estate, be it real, personal or mixed, or of whatever kind and nature and wheresoever located, I give, devise and bequeath unto the Government of the City of Milford, State of Delaware, the governing body of which consists of the elected City Council members to be used and expended in Milford only to grant homeowners in the Kent County part of Milford a proportional reduction in city property taxes,” the handwritten will read. “Excluded will be homeowners whose houses are rented to others; homeowners who rent rooms and/or apartments to others; owners of properties where business is conducted.” Mr. DeVisser also excluded the owners of three houses on North Washington Street, a home on Northeast Sixth Street, a home on Lakeview Avenue, a home on Hall Place and one on Old Shawnee Road.
According to Eric Norenberg, City Manager, the will provided for a lump sum to be used after expenses. As of July 1, the amount in the trust was slightly more than the anticipated tax bills for those properties so those homeowners will see a credit on the bill rather than the balance owed. The credit will be applied to the property tax bill for the 2018 year.
“I knew Mr. DeVisser, represented him on Council,” Councilman Owen Brooks said. “I have no idea why he decided to leave the money in trust in order to pay the Kent County property taxes or why he decided to exclude those particular addresses. I remember once I came home from patrol and went to bed. My wife came and woke me up about nine to tell me there was a man downstairs and he was not leaving until he talked to me. Apparently, he was mad that I voted to raise trash fees $0.25, claiming I sided with a longtime councilman over him. I was new on council and wasn’t about to challenge those who had been there a long time. Plus, they were able to demonstrate why they needed the increase. Peter was not at all happy with me.”
Brooks states that once at his residence, Mr. DeVisser told the Councilman he was a spy in the war and that he had “killed people” with a the gun Councilman Brooks had seen on a dresser at the DeVisser home. Mr. DeVisser also once showed him a letter he wrote to Vice-President Joe Biden when he was serving as a United States Senator telling him he did not like the way this country was being run.
City Solicitor David Rutt, who informed Council about the will, said that the will was handwritten and witnessed by two people. Mr. DeVisser specifically disinherited his heirs, leaving all his remainder estate to the owner-occupied property owners in Milford within Kent County, with the exceptions of owners of those particular homes.
The Petition explains that Mr. DeVisser died on July 7, 2010. Since the will was written, properties have changed in the Kent County area of Milford. In addition, the will is not clear whether the date determined which properties were eligible for the tax relief. It does seem clear that the excluded properties were more than likely due to who owned the property at the time he wrote the will and not the property itself. For this reason, the City asked the Court of Chancery to make a determination on how to proceed with the trust. Based on the decision of the court, the City determined the addresses that were eligible for the tax credit and issued letters informing homeowners.
“I can’t tell you a lot about Peter, but I can tell you he was a good man,” Councilman Brooks said. “He was very smart and very opinionated. I think he did this because he wanted to do something good for the people of Milford.”
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