So somehow - no one is 100 percent sure, although the city tax assessor says it was her mistake - the assessment on an eight-acre South Inlet redevelopment plot was changed from $18.5 million to $6 million sometime before the Dec. 13, 2013, sale of the property to Boraie Development LLC.

Mayor Don Guardian is as mystified as anyone else; the change and the sale took place before he took office.

Boraie, along with partner Shaquille O'Neal, says it is going to build a $60 million, 250-unit luxury apartment complex on the long-vacant site, along with entertainment and shopping features to be added later.

The company bought the land, which had been owned by the Atlantic City Housing Authority, for $1 million in a deal approved by the city, which is the redevelopment entity for the site. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has agreed to provide a $30 million loan for the project once Boraie secures the rest of the funding.

The Boraie development was a pet project of former Mayor Lorenzo Langford. The $1 million price for the land was certainly a bargain - but it's not all that unusual for an area determined to be in need of redevelopment to sell for a fraction of its assessed value in return for some other presumed public benefit.

But the mysterious change in the land's assessment from $18.5 million to $6 million is extremely troublesome.

It comes, of course, at a time when casino tax appeals have drastically undermined the city's - indeed the entire county's - tax base, affecting everyone in Atlantic County.

City Tax Assessor Novelette Robinson said she had been running different valuation scenarios for the land on the office computer system. Experts say it is possible, under such circumstances, for one of the tests to be recorded as the final assessment if it is not changed back.

If, in fact, that's all that happened, so be it. And Robinson deserves praise for admitting her error. Plans are already under way to rectify the incorrect assessment.

But the Boraie proposal has already raised plenty of eyebrows. The plan for luxury apartments in the South Inlet seems to rely on a lot of wishful thinking.

So it sure would be nice if Langford, who has declined comment, would explain what he knows about this changed assessment.

And it sure would be nice if Wasseem Boraie, a company vice president who also declined to comment, answered this question: What did he think he was buying? Land assessed at $18.5 million or $6 million?

Sadly, this can't rest with Robinson's assertion that she made a mistake.

Someone in Trenton - perhaps the Office of the State Comptroller - needs to perform an independent review of what happened here.

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