7/11/2017 4:30:00 PM Tax revenue vs. development
being debated in Wellston Proposed project at former Penn's Warehouse site disclosed
Shown above is a view of the property that has been the subject of a tax-appeal process between Landmark Properties Group LLC and the Wellston City School District. The location is that of the former Pennís Warehouse business, which is situated off of State Route 327 and Honeysuckle Lane in the City of Wellston. (Telegram Photo By Phillip Buffington)
Though nothing was discussed in open session, information was made available to the media as well as members of the Wellston City Schools Board of Education during this week's meeting, courtesy of Wellston Mayor Connie Pelletier and Landmark Properties Group LLC President Kevin Ross.
The information in question was a letter from Mayor Pelletier to the board, which was meant to serve as a reference and character witness for Ross, as well as a letter from Ross himself, which was also directed to the school board members.
Ross's letter alleges that, in August 2015, his company purchased the former Penn's Warehouse property, located off of State Route 327 and Honeysuckle Lane in the City of Wellston, at a public auction. The asking price, Ross stated, was $150,000 and his company purchased 5.9 acres and six buildings for $185,000. In his letter to the Wellston Board, Ross described the property as being "burdened by real estate taxes based upon a $500,000 value," but stated he assumed the county would "adjust the real estate taxes accordingly," though this was not the case.
Also in his letter to the board, Ross outlined a number of his company's accomplishments with regard to "repurposing and revitalizing" distressed properties. Some of these properties include Waverly's Ponderosa restaurant, the First National Bank building in Chillicothe's historic district, and the building in Wellston which now houses the Viva Jalisco Mexican restaurant. What Ross describes as the company's greatest accomplishment to date is the Triple Crown Sports and Family Fun Center in Chillicothe.
According to Ross's letter, his company has been planning to build its third Triple Crown facility in either Jackson County or Athens County, as the group felt "there was a need for such a facility" in the area. He said such an addition would "be a tremendous benefit to the local economy" which could potentially bring up to 50 jobs, numerous visitors, entertainment and sports activities, and two food franchises to the area.
Over the past two years, in what Ross describes as "a lengthy and expensive" tax-appeal process in which the opposing attorney was representing the Wellston City School District, Ross and his company was seeking a lower real estate tax appraisal for the property. In speaking with Jackson County Auditor Clyde Holdren, The Telegram learned that Ross's first appeal, which was filed in 2016, was ultimately denied by the Board of Revision due to procedural issues. In this case, Holdren explained the Landmark Properties Group had failed to meet the burden of proof in requesting a lower tax valuation, and the group had also failed to appear in court for that hearing. According to Holdren, Ross and his company's legal representation had said they did not receive notice of that hearing.
After another appeal was filed by Ross's company this year, Holdren stated the Board of Revision changed the former Penn's Warehouse property's classification from a discount store to a warehouse, which lowered the real estate tax value from $557,000 to $387,440. The school district and its attorneys now have until later this month to appeal this drop in value. Holdren pointed out that anytime a property's value drops by $50,000 or more within a given school district, the common procedure is for the district's attorneys to examine the issue, as a portion of a school district's funding is derived from the county's tax base.
At the end of Ross's letter to the Wellston board, he stated, "I'm addressing the board of education to make it aware that this experience is going to prevent my company from expanding its holdings in Wellston as well as preventing us from investing in other properties in the area. It's sad that your community isn't going to benefit from the activities we could have brought to your community. I am amazed that the board of education would fight so hard to keep an unrealistic tax value that we will be forced to continue to fight. It would seem welcoming companies with open arms and then properly addressing the values after investments have been made would have been more appropriate."
Next year, Holdren stated the property's value will once again be reassessed, at which time the value could raise or lower depending on what types of evidence is presented from either side, assuming the tax-appeal process continues.
During the Monday night, July 10 board meeting, Ross was invited to speak with board members in executive session. The board made no comment regarding the issue and no action was taken.
The Telegram reached out to Superintendent Karen Boch for comment Tuesday, and she in turn reached out to the district's attorneys to see what, if anything, could be said as the issue involves pending litigation. As of press time, Boch was unable to make a statement.
Posted: Friday, July 14, 2017
Article comment by:
It would seem that it would be better to decrease these taxes and get more money in the county by growth and development than to let the building and property Continue to deteriorate and have no money from back taxes. Go figure. Some People just don't use common sense, of which is lacking in humans these days...