Is The Chautauqua Mall The Only Big Box Store To Be Assessed For Too Much?

It’s quite likely Washington Prime Group isn’t the group most interested to see the Chautauqua Mall’s taxable assessment nearly cut in half.

As the town of Busti, village of Lakewood, Chautauqua County and Southwestern Central School District figure out how much of the roughly $400,000 in tax overpayments they will individually pay back to the mall’s owner, it seems a safe bet that other major commercial parcel holders will take notice of the mall’s successful and lengthy effort for a property reassessment.

The Chautauqua Mall first challenged its property valuation in 2020, arguing the property’s assessed value should be reduced from $9.26 million to $5,002,400. The court settled at $5,772,000. After weathering the pandemic, the mall asked for its tax assessment to be decreased all the way down to $1 million. Through mediation the sides agreed to an assessed value of $4,965,000. Such an assessment will go a long way toward cutting the mall’s tax bill, which totaled more than $125,000 before including school taxes.

It could have been worse, but someone will be left paying a bill both for the past three years of tax overpayments by Chautauqua Mall and for the ongoing loss of taxable assessment. Unless the town, village and school cut spending to make up for the loss of taxable assessment, tax rates are going to go up — meaning a whole lot of residents and businesses will be paying more on their tax bills. But more importantly, one has to wonder if other big retailers who own big box stores on the Fairmount Avenue strip won’t fight just as hard to see their tax assessments lowered.

Many can’t make the strong case the mall could that it was assessed too highly. Malls were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, unlike other big box retailers that were allowed to remain open in the early months of the pandemic. And, many mall-based retailers have struggled to remain open and competitive in recent years as buyers have moved toward online shopping. But, Chautauqua Mall’s success in its court-based assessment challenge may have set a roadmap for other nearby big box stores to follow.

Someone will pay. The question is who?


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