Aspen Skiing Co., county spar over property values |

Aspen Skiing Co., county spar over property values

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Representatives of Aspen Skiing Co. and Pitkin County squared off this week in a dispute with more than $50 million in property valuations – and hefty property tax bills – at stake.

The two sides took their dispute over The Little Nell hotel, the Snowmass Club and property the Skico owns at the base of Lift 1A to the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals. Each side had up to four hours to plead their case to state board in hearings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Skico says its properties were overvalued by the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office in May 2009 – the last time values were adjusted by county governments in Colorado. (The next revaluation will be issued next month.)

The assessor’s office valued The Little Nell at $81,726,900, according to Pitkin County records. The Skico contended in a petition to the state that its five-star hotel was worth $40 million. The assessor’s findings were upheld by the Pitkin County Board of Equalization, the first step in the administrative appeal process. The Skico petitioned to the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals.

The dispute over The Little Nell’s value was heard by the board Tuesday. Skico Senior Vice President/General Counsel Dave Bellack said both sides used their fully allotted time of four hours to explain their reasoning for the different values.

“They walk through their calculations in detail,” Bellack said.

At the hearings held in state offices in Denver, the Skico was represented by Duff and Phelps LLC, a global provider of financial advisory and investment banking services, and the Denver law firm of Isaacson Rosenbaum P.C.

Pitkin County was represented by Chief Appraiser Larry Fite and Assistant County Attorney Chris Seldin. Fite said they participated in the hearings by teleconferencing from county offices.

Monday’s hearing was on a dispute over the value of the Skico’s property at Lift 1A in Aspen, in what it known as the Eames Addition subdivision. The county valued a 27,300-square-foot lot at $4,095,000. The Skico said it should have been valued at $9,282.

The Skico owns a second parcel of 15,600 square feet in that area. The assessor valued it at $2,340,000. The Skico says it should be valued at $5,301.

Wednesday’s dispute was over the value of the Snowmass Club. The petitioner is Snowmass Club Associates LLC, a company affiliated with the Skico. The county valued the Snowmass Club at $24,112,800. The owner’s requested value is $7,835,570.

The board members who heard the appeals on Monday and Tuesday said they would issue written rulings within 30 days, Bellack said Wednesday during a break in the meetings in Denver. The board’s decision can be appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Like any property owner, the Skico is concerned about the value the government places on its property because it determines the size of the tax bill. The Skico paid $598,516.32 in property taxes on The Little Nell for 2009, according to county records.