Suits seek huge tax cuts

Northeastern Industrial Park filed suit against Guilderland in an attempt to cut its assessment by over half. The owners of the 521 acres are requesting the property’s value be slashed from $72.8 million to $31 million.

GUILDERLAND — For the past couple of years, the town has worked to button up a number of lawsuits it faced from commercial property owners who said their assessments were dramatically overstated following a town-wide property revaluation in 2019.

The summer following its revaluation, Guilderland faced 30-odd lawsuits from property owners looking to drive down the value of nearly 80 properties by a cumulative $378 million.   

The town has since settled a great many of the cases, with the outcome often more favorable than not for the town. 

But a handful of property owners continue to seek dramatic cuts to their assessments, filing suit after suit, year after year in an attempt to shift their local tax burden onto the rest of the landowners in Guilderland.

These include the Northeastern Industrial Park, which says five of its parcels should go from an assessment of roughly $73 million to $31 million; Wolanin Companies, which says the assessment on eight properties should go from roughly $20 million to $5 million; and Hamilton Square, which wants to have its assessment reduced from about $15 million to $9 million.

Recently, Crossgates Mall filed its third-straight Article 7 petition requesting its assessed value be lowered by more than 50 percent, from $234 million — which the town had already reduced from $282 million — to $109 million.

The other major case the town has faced for some time has been Macy’s attempts to drastically reduce its tax bill. The retailer recently requested that its assessment be reduced by 82.5 percent, from $15.7 million to $2.7 million.

With its July 8 filing, Macy’s has filed a tax certiorari case against the town at least six out of the last seven years. 

In 2016 and 2017, Macy’s sought a 75-percent reduction in its then-$11.5 million assessment. Eventually, the two sides arrived at a compromise and Macy’s had an assessed value that hovered between $7.8 million and $9 million for tax years 2016, 2017, and 2018.

The latest suits against Guilderland were, like the previous two, filed on behalf of some of the town’s better-known properties.


Northeastern Industrial Park

The Northeastern Industrial Park says its five parcels, which were assessed at about $72.8 million, should be valued at $31 million, which is the same number arrived at by Northeastern’s appraiser in the company’s 2019 tax certiorari suit against Guilderland; the town said the parcels had a cumulative value of $62.5 million.

Northeastern argued in its July 18 petition that “none of the properties set forth in the assessment roll,” including its own, “had been assessed upon one common and general principle of valuation, which shall apply alike to all real estate assessed within the municipality, as required by law ….”

The industrial park went on to say its assessment was “unequal, excessive by reason of overvaluation, excessive, unlawful or unjust in that it had been made at a higher proportionate value than the assessments on other properties in the municipality ….”

This is the fourth time in as many years that Northeastern has filed a tax certiorari against the town. The three most recent cases appear to be on the back burner as the industrial park’s 2019 suit takes center stage. 

The 2019 case has been heard by Judge Margaret Walsh once already, in July 2021; however, a few months after each side had made their closing argument, the town requested the trial be reopened so it could enter into evidence the October 2021 sale of 8, 21, and 22 Northeastern Industrial Park.

The three properties, which total approximately 20 acres, were sold for $30 million. The parcels were not part of the current litigation, but the town said it would offer evidence that the sale affected its appraiser’s “methodology and opinion of value.”

The five parcels Northeastern IP Holdings says should be valued at $31 million comprise approximately 521 of the park’s 560 commercial (out of 650 total) acres.

Judge Walsh ultimately granted the town’s request to reopen the case. 

A second trial was scheduled for May 27, according to the court’s calendar.

On June 30, opposing motions related to Northeastern’s request to strike from the record the town’s appraisal of the properties were returned to the respective parties. 


Wolanin Companies

The Wolanin Companies successfully grieved multiple parcels in a 2019 lawsuit, which took two years to play out:

— The 1700 Designer Residences on Western Avenue, whose assessment was reduced from $13.5 million to $9.6 million; and

— The three parcels that make up 6133 State Farm Road, the 180-unit Brandywine Apartments, which had its cumulative assessed value dropped from $14,927,200 to $11,750,000.

The assessment on the two apartment complexes remains in place through 2025.

In her September 2021 memo to the town board asking it to approve the lowered assessment, Guilderland Assessor Heather Weinhold noted Wolanin’s 2019 petition included 12 properties, but the company dropped the challenge on eight of them.

Wolnanin’s 2022 Article 7 seeks to drop the assessment on those eight parcels — Town Center plaza, 6270 Johnston Road Rear, and a handful of residential properties on Western Avenue — which have an aggregate value of $19.6 million. The company would like to see the assessment on the parcels slashed by nearly 73 percent, to approximately $5.4 million.

Wolanin argued in its July 18 court filing that the assessed value of its properties had “been made at a higher proportionate valuation than the assessments on other comparable properties located within the Town of Guilderland.”


20 Mall at Guilderland, LLC

Hamilton Square, originally called 20 Mall, filed its fourth straight Article 7 against the town on July 15. The property owner argued that the 13.7-acre property at 2080 Western Ave had “been overvalued for assessment purposes as compared to other properties,” and requested a reduction from $14.5 million to $9 million. 

Like Northeastern Industrial Park, Hamilton Square’s three most recent cases appear to have taken a backseat to its first tax certiorari filing. 

Twenty Mall’s initial 2019 request to Judge Walsh was to lower its assessment from nearly $16 million to $12.45 million. But after each side had filed their appraisals of the property, the Hamilton Square’s tune appears to have changed. 

The town valued the property at $16.25 million; the owner $12.5 million.

Judge Walsh determined in early December 2021 that the proper assessment was $14.7 million. Hamilton Square filed an appeal later in the month, which the town responded to in June, seeking an extension to respond until the end of the month


“No power to compel”

 Supervisor Peter Barber explained the issues Guilderland faced with the tax lawsuits during a September 2021 town board meeting. 

Barber explained when the assessor had to initially assess a commercial property or apartment building, its owner did not have to provide any background information on the property. “We don’t have their income and expense,” he said.

But, when the property owner brings Guilderland to court, those documents have to be provided to the town, which the town then uses to come up with an appraised property value, which is a more accurate estimate of the property’s value. 

For example, the owners of Carpenter Village, a 165-unit apartment complex on Vosburgh Road, filed suits in 2019 and 2020 to lower the property’s $16.7 million assessed value. The town’s appraisal determined the property’s value to be $13.75 million, while the owner’s had an estimate of $10.4 million. 

The town was able to get Carpenter Village to agree to a $12.8 million assessment while discontinuing other tax complaints for 1873 Western Ave., which had an assessed value for tax year 2021 of $2,201,000. The town’s appraisal was $2.3 million, while the owner’s was $970,000; for 2580 Western Ave., assessed at $1.3 million for tax year 2021, the town appraised the property at $1.6 million and Carpenter Village estimated $890,000.

It was difficult for Guilderland to value the apartment property at 6512 Vosburgh Road when it undertook its 2019 revaluation because its owner did not provide the town with the proper information, like rent rolls. “They were not very forthcoming when the firm that was doing our town-wide reassessment was inquiring for their income and expense,” Weinhold said during an April 2021 town board meeting. 

“You can’t issue a subpoena; you can’t force them to do it,” Barber responded. “If they don’t get it to you, you just have to use your best guess.”

Weinhold said publicly available information was used as were rental listings in addition to the amenities the property had. 

With a revised assessment of $12.8 million for Carpenter Village and the assessment before the revaluation at $6.2 million, Barber said that the apartments had been “grossly under-assessed.” So, even with the revised assessment, the property’s assessed value is “still substantially above where they were prior to the reval,” he said.

Weinhold said that the town’s “appraisal values are definitely coming in higher than 2018 full-market value.”

The 146-unit apartment complex at 457 Route 146 known as the Park Guilderland Apartments was being assessed for $13.5 million when its owner filed suit against the town.

Park Guilderland appraised its value at $9.4 million; the town countered at $9.9 million. A revised assessment of $9.8 million for 2019 and 2020 was agreed upon, as was $9.5 million for 2021, 2022, and 2023.

“So, even though we are broaching the reduction that is on here, we’re still gaining over $6 million of taxable value,” Weinhold said in April 2021. The property had “greatly under-assessed prior to the town-wide reassessment,” she said. “Its full-market value for 2018 was only $3,712,195.”

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