Suits Seek To Reassess Property Values

ELLICOTT — Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin said lawsuits staged in a bid to reassess commercial properties are more common than people may think, and recent civil cases to reassess the values of the former Sam’s Club, Holiday Inn and Comfort Inn in the town of Ellicott are only the most recent.

Sam’s Real Estate Business Trust is submitting a petition through their attorney, Bruce J. Stavitsky, to the State Supreme Court in Chautauqua County to potentially have the empty Sam’s Club building get reassessed from $4,030,000 to $900,000. Other parcels on the property are currently valued at $126,000 and $550,000, and the desire is for them to be reevaluated at $45,450 and $90,000 respectively.

Boxwood Hotel, LLC is petitioning similarly for the local Holiday Inn Express & Suites at 2811 N. Main St. to be reassessed from the current value of $3,700,000 to $1,567,800. Anchor Hotels, LLC is also petitioning for Comfort Inn at 2800 N. Main St. to be reassessed from $4,080,000 to $408,000.

McLaughlin said state governments want properties to be assessed at their true values and that reassessment to the degrees being requested are highly unlikely. He said the town has gone to court before for similar cases.

While the requested reassessed values don’t seem likely to come true, McLaughlin did add that these properties haven’t been reassessed in approxmiately 10 years and that the ideal period between reassessments is only five years.

“It’s quite an undertaking to (reassess),” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said that if assessments decrease so drastically, so will the tax levy, meaning the town would have to make cuts and likely lay off part-time workers. He also said the town wouldn’t arbitrarily raise taxes if the cases were to conclude in the plantiffs’ favors.

The properties, even the former Sam’s Club, which is considered a “dark box” in its barren state, are functioning parcels that McLaughlin said are assessed accurately. He said the former site of Sam’s Club at 720 Fairmount Ave. was assessed highly even before doors opened to customers because of the features of the property itself. He also expects a buyer to acquire the building next year, which could also contribute to its current value.

“That hasn’t changed,” McLaughlin said in respect to there being value due to the costs originally expended to build and renovate the building in the first place. “There’s still value there.”

He mentioned a loss of at least $12,000 in tax revenue per year if the former Sam’s Club is reassessed to less than a quarter of what it is currently worth. McLaughlin said he’s not too concerned, in part because he said judges know what law firms are trying in terms of arguing for lower assessments to in turn lower property taxes for owning institutions.

“Normally, cooler heads prevail in this,” he said.

Stavitsky declined to comment when contacted.