Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 13, 2014

County joins GT Mall tax appeal

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County officials will ante up and join a fight over Grand Traverse Mall’s taxable value.

The county stands to lose about $57,000 in general fund dollars and another $14,000 in special millage funds annually if New York City-based Rouse Properties Inc. successfully appeals the taxable value of the sprawling mall located off South Airport Road.

Commission Chair Herb Lemcool said county board members decided to join Garfield Township in the tax appeal case because of the amount of money at stake. They also believe township officials will win the case.

“We feel very strongly that the assessor at Garfield Township has done her due diligence to prove her assessment of the property is accurate,” Lemcool said.

Rouse Properties purchased Grand Traverse Mall in 2012 for $66 million. The township assessor set the property’s taxable value at about $30 million, but Rouse Properties officials contend the figure is closer to $18 million.

County commissioners agreed to reimburse half the costs incurred by Garfield Township during the appeal up to $14,000 — or one-quarter of the county general fund revenue at stake.

Lemcool said there’s a chance the county won’t spend a dime: the state Attorney General already agreed to lead the legal defense and pay half the cost of an appraisal.

That would leave the county and township on the hook for the rest of the appraisal’s cost, but Lemcool said the case could be resolved before an appraisal is needed.

Some county officials expressed concerns last month that joining the Grand Traverse Mall appeal would open the door for townships to seek county help on more tax appeals.

Now Blair Township officials are measuring whether the county would join an appeal in their backyard over the taxable value of the Menards store located off U.S. 31, Blair Township Assessor Wendy Witkop said.

That property’s taxable value is set at about $3 million this year. The appeal argues the actual value is closer to $2.1 million.

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