Chautauqua Mall owners are fighting to pay less local taxes in US bankruptcy court.
Last week, Washington Prime Group asked a court in Houston, Texas to determine the appropriate market value of the land it owns in the town of Busti.
This is the third attempt Washington Prime Group has made to reduce its taxable assessment on the Chautauqua Mall after filing a pair of tax certiorari cases in the state Supreme Court in Mayville in 2020 and 2021. More Earlier this week, the 2020 filing was updated to include the bankruptcy court petition. Washington Prime lawyers argue
“At the last conference, we discussed that the petitioner can refer this matter to the bankruptcy court,” wrote Kevin MacLeod, a Baldwinsville, NY attorney hired to represent the Washington Prime Group. “I write to advise the court that a suit by the adversary has now been filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court seeking relief under 11 USC 505. Specifically, the petitioner asked the bankruptcy court to make a determination as to the property tax liability for the property in question in the aforementioned proceedings. I have attached a copy of the recent filing for your reference. In light of the recent filing, the Petitioner respectfully requests that all time and proceedings in this court be stayed pending a decision of the bankruptcy court.”
In its 2020 and 2021 filings, Washington Prime Group had requested that its taxable assessment be reduced from $9,260,000 to $5,200,000 while arguing that the mall had been unfairly assessed. Washington Prime attorneys are arguing in bankruptcy court that the 2020 and 2021 cases are moving too slowly and need to be resolved for the bankruptcy case to proceed.
No formal discovery was permitted on the 2020 assessment reduction application, but the parties voluntarily exchanged certain documents, according to the March 15 court filing. Washington Prime filed for settlement on October 8, 2020, but Washington Prime says the city has not responded or participated in negotiations. The state Supreme Court verbally ordered the parties to submit their own preliminary assessments for review by April 15, 2022.
The 2021 filing took no action other than the city’s consent to representation for e-filing purposes.
“No case has reached the stage where a scheduling order has been issued setting time limits for the exchange of trial-ready assessments pursuant to 22NYCRR 202.59(g) or setting a trial date,” the March 15 filing with the bankruptcy court indicates. “Among other things, the adjudication by this court of the two cases together in one proceeding will greatly serve the interests of efficiency and uniformity.”
Washington Prime Group has spent nearly a year working through its bankruptcy proceedings after the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated its financial difficulties. Washington Prime Group was formed in 2014 as a spin-off from Simon Property Group. It operates approximately 100 malls across the country, including the Chautauqua Mall. The Chautauqua Mall has battled the loss of three anchor tenants in recent years, including Sears, Bon-Ton and Office Max. The mall pivoted to Planet Fitness and restaurants like Sakura Buffet to add tenants as retail stores struggled even before the COVID-19 pandemic while adding new off-plot development at Taco Bell. Ollie’s Bargain Outlet is the newest store to open in the mall.
“WPG is asking this court to determine the estimated market value of the Chautauqua Mall in light of, among other factors, the widespread struggles of the mall industry and the deterioration in the actual operating performance of the property in question to rule on the amount. of the tax, depending on the value which should be fairly assessed against WPG”, Washington Prime attorneys wrote on March 15.