After reval, Guilderland properties assessed at 40 percent more

The Enterprise — Michael Koff 
Macy’s Retail Holdings Inc. is filing a certiorari proceeding against the town of Guilderland, its assessor, and its board of assessment review.

GUILDERLAND — In the recently completed townwide revaluation, the value of the properties in Guilderland went up 40 percent, from $3.4 billion last year to $4.8 billion. Almost 900 property owners grieved their assessments, according to Assessor Karen Van Wagenen; she did not yet have data on how many owners were successful in getting their assessments reduced. 

There are 12,803 properties in town.

For the first time since 2005, the town worked to assess all Guilderland properties at 100 percent of their market value. The decision to undertake the reval was sparked by a drop in the state-set equalization rate in 2017, from 88 to 76 percent, which caused a sudden spike in taxes for property owners on the edges of town who live in school districts other than Guilderland’s. It also created inequities in county taxes.

The town appealed the new rate, unsuccessfully, in September 2017. 

Property taxes are based on assessments and Van Wagenen said earlier that property owners will not see an increase in their tax bill unless their assessment rises more than about 40 to 42 percent.

Van Wagenen does not yet have information on how many of the grievances were by homeowners, or on how many of those were successful in getting assessments lowered. 

The assessor did say that a number of the town’s largest taxpayers, including Woodlake Apartments and Hamilton Square, grieved their assessments, but none were successful, Van Wagenen said.


Large-taxpayer grievances 

Stuyvesant Plaza Inc.’s properties include, in addition to the outdoor plaza itself, the nearby Executive Tower and Executive Park Drive. No grievance was filed this year in relation to the plaza, assessed at $28.7 million, but grievances were filed for two buildings, numbers 2 and 4 Executive Park Drive, Van Wagenen said. 

These same two buildings were the subject last summer of a certiorari — a legal proceeding where Albany County Supreme Court reviews a municipality's valuation of property. A certiorari is a step beyond a grievance. 

In 2018, before the certiorari proceeding, 2 Executive Park Drive was assessed at $2.2 million, while 4 Executive Park’s value was assessed at $4.1 million. It was unclear this week if or how this certiorari resolved, since Van Wagenen was out of the office on vacation. 

Those numbers rose in this year’s revaluation to $2.8 million for 2 Executive Park Drive and to $5.5 million for 4 Executive Park Drive.


Other plazas 

Two other shopping malls — Star Plaza and Hamilton Square — also grieved unsuccessfully this year, according to Van Wagenen. Like Stuyvesant Plaza, both of those malls are located off of Guilderland’s major thoroughfare, Route 20.

Star Plaza, at routes 155 and 20, filed a grievance of its assessment, Van Wagenen said. Its nearly $5.2 million assessment does not include Dunkin’ or Trustco, she said. 

Hamilton Square, next to Star Plaza, was also unsuccessful in its grievance this year, Van Wagenen said. Hamilton Square’s owner is listed as Twenty Mall at Guilderland LLC; Twenty Mall is the mall’s former name. The mall’s almost $16 million assessment for 2019 does not include Starbucks or MT Bank, the assessor said.  

The owners of a number of parcels in the industrial park also filed grievances, Van Wagenen said, all unsuccessfully. 

Van Wagenen did not know if any of these companies that had grieved unsuccessfully would go on to file certioraris, since the deadline for doing so is the end of July. 


Next step in Macy’s grievance

According to court documents, Macy’s Retail Holdings Inc. is filing a certiorari proceeding against the town of Guilderland, its assessor, and its board of assessment review, arguing that, although the store it leases in Crossgates Mall was assessed this year at $15,655,000, its real full-market value is no more than $5 million. 

Macy’s in the mall had been assessed at $11.5 million since the 2005 townwide revaluation, Van Wagenen told The Enterprise earlier.

The assessment for Macy’s for 2018, Van Wagenen said, was part of a settlement in an earlier certiorari. The company’s original assessment for 2018 had been $11,500,000, but that figure was lowered to $8,023,700, she said. 

“That one was probably a lot lower than it should have been, to settle the case,” she said, referring to the $8 million figure. 

She explained that commercial properties are assessed on the basis of “what the normal income and expenses would be for a property like that.” 

Retail properties are always compared to other retail properties, she said, and size and location affect the assessment. 

This year, the town’s assessment of Macy’s nearly doubled, to $15,655,000. 

“They didn’t like it,” Van Wagenen said. 

Macy’s East Inc. has also filed a certiorari against the town of Colonie regarding its Colonie Center property. Although that property was assessed this year at $11,800,000, Macy’s is arguing that its full-market value is a maximum of $1 million; since the town of Colonie assessed properties this year at 62.5 percent of full-market value, the company says that its assessment for the Colonie Center store should be no more than $625,000.

Attorney Rebecca Speno of Speno MacLeod, which is representing Macy’s in both proceedings, directed The Enterprise to Macy’s representatives for comment, but Macy’s could not be reached. 

Macy’s plans to open a designer discount shop, known as Macy’s Backstage, within its Crossgates location on Aug. 10. The company has 165 of these stores-within-a-store and plans to open 50 more in 2019, according to a press release from Macy’s. 



A year ago, 73 townhouse owners in the Mill Hill development off Route 155 went to Guilderland’s board of assessment review to ask for their properties to be declared condominiums, which would lower their combined assessment by about $9.7 million. 

They were successful and, said Van Wagenen this week, “got quite a break last year.” Not only were the properties now compared to apartments, but also the town was still working with 2005 values, she said. 

She had told The Enterprise earlier that an average assessment for one of the townhouses was about $325,500, which would go down to about $197,100 if they were declared condos.

This year, Van Wagenen said, some of those owners had expected their assessments to remain unchanged. The majority saw their valuation rise by about 10 percent, Van Wagenen said, although a few went up 25 percent. 

Nearly all of Guilderland’s large apartment complexes, including Woodlake, Regency Park, Heritage Village, and Fairwood, also filed grievances, Van Wagenen said. None were successful, she said. 

Van Wagenen has not yet calculated the total value of properties held by Guilderland’s single-largest taxpayer, Pyramid, which owns Crossgates Mall and many properties around it.

Pyramid did not file any grievances this year.

Many of the formerly residential properties owned by Pyramid on streets from the Westmere neighborhood that includes Lawton Terrace and Rialton Court are held in the names of various limited-liability corporations, so it takes time to locate them and add them all together, Van Wagenen said. 

She added that she expects to know this figure in August, because, she said, by then the school districts and some of the fire districts want to know want a list of the town’s top 10 largest taxpayers. 

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