Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mall Sues Appraiser over Taxes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mall Sues Appraiser over Taxes

Article excerpt

The owner of the Orange Park Mall, Clay County's second-largest taxpayer, is taking the Property Appraiser's Office to court to challenge a tax value that created a $1.2 million tax bill.

Simon Property Group Inc. paid that tax bill on Nov. 30 but is suing Property Appraiser Wayne Weeks and his brother, Tax Collector Jimmy Weeks, for a refund.

The lawsuit, filed in December, alleges that the $66.4 million assessment value on the Orange Park Mall is too high and doesn't reflect the just value of the shopping center.

If it wins the suit, Simon Property Group will receive a reimbursement from the tax collector. However, the suit never suggests what is a just value for the mall. Nor did Simon Property Group state a fair market value when it contested the appraiser's original value of $79 million to the value adjustment board last year.

Weeks and the adjustment board agreed to lower the mall's assessment value to $66.4 million. That decision caused the county to lose about $239,000 in taxes from the mall. The appraiser's office figures it loses about $19,000 in taxes for every $1 million reduction in property value.

Billie Scott, a spokesman for The Simon Property Group, said the company's policy is not to comment on pending lawsuits.

The company, based in Indianapolis, is the country's largest owner, developer and manager of retail real estate. It owns or manages 70 malls and oversees a retail network with more than $30 billion in annual sales.

Wayne Weeks thinks the mall's present value is fair and said he's ready to defend it. If he succeeds, it will also affect property values in the future.

"If you buckle under on one year, then you are beholden to them," Weeks said.

The Orange Park Mall opened in 1975 and has tripled in value since Weeks took office in 1989. The mall's assessment remained at $51.2 million between 1994 and 1997, but jumped considerably after the 24-screen AMC Theater opened in August 1997.

The movie theater cost $13 million to build and bought the mall to a total of 97,313 square feet. JCPenney is the only anchor, or department store, included in the mall's assessment value. …

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