Aspen Skiing Co. wants Little Nell hotel value dropped by $40 million |

Aspen Skiing Co. wants Little Nell hotel value dropped by $40 million

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. hopes to celebrate the New Year with tax relief.The Skico claims Pitkin County has overvalued its Little Nell hotel by $40 million. It has petitioned the Colorado Board of Assessment Appeals to reduce the actual value assigned to the luxury hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain.The Pitkin County Assessor’s Office placed the actual value at $81,726,900 when the latest reappraisal was completed in May 2009. The Skico contends in a petition to the state that the Little Nell is worth only $40 million.A hefty property tax bill is at stake in the dispute. The Skico paid $598,516.32 in property taxes on the Little Nell for 2009, according to assessor’s records. That was an increase of $47,870, or 8.5 percent, from the year before.If the Skico prevails in its case, the 2009 taxes paid and the 2010 tax bill will be reduced.Pitkin County had an unprecedented number of protests and hearings by the Board of Equalization in 2009. What makes the Little Nell hotel case unusual is it has dragged on for so long.There were 4,576 protests to the assessor’s office. Of those, 1,877 property owners appealed to the next level and sought a hearing with the Pitkin County Board of Equalization. About 100 property owners weren’t satisfied with the results there and protested to the next level, with the state Board of Assessment Appeals.Only five of those cases remain unresolved, and three of those disputes involve the Skico. The Skico is also trying to get the value lowered for land at the base of Lift 1A in Aspen and for the Snowmass Club.In the Little Nell case, the Skico requested an administrative denial by Pitkin County in summer 2009 rather than go through a hearing with the Board of Equalization, according to Pitkin County records. A hearing before the state Board of Assessment Appeals was scheduled for next week but it was postponed until a date in March yet to be determined.The Skico is being represented in the dispute by Duff & Phelps LLC, a Denver firm that specializes in property assessment appeals. The firm filed a petition with the state that says the Skico disagrees with the value assigned to the Little Nell Hotel because “the income approach results in a lower value than the assessed value.”Dave Bellack, Skico senior vice president/general counsel, said the value of hotels and other income-producing properties is often calculated using different methods than residential properties. To figure out the actual value of a house, appraisers look at sales of comparable homes in the neighborhood. For the hotel, the assessor needed to look at income production, not just the few sales of hotels, Bellack said.”We believe the assessor substantially overvalued the Little Nell hotel,” he said.Pitkin County Assessor Tom Isaac was reluctant to discuss the Little Nell case because of the March hearing. He noted that his office didn’t believe an adjustment was warranted after the valuation was assigned in May 2009 and it still doesn’t. “We’re not going to make concessions,” he said.The hotel was valued at $63 million in the 2007 reassessment. Since then, all 92 rooms have been renovated.The assessor’s office and Skico will have equal time to present their cases in the state board hearing as well in the hearings over the Lift 1A property and the Snowmass Club.In the dispute over the Snowmass Club, Isaac’s office assigned an actual value of $12,188,600. The Skico asked for that to be knocked down to $3,960,744, according to the county’s records.The Skico is also protesting the actual value assigned to land near the base of Lift 1A, in what is known as the Eames Addition subdivision. The county assigned an actual value of $4,095,000 to a 27,300-square-foot parcel. The Skico’s requested value is $9,282.The county assigned an actual value of $2,340,000 to a second parcel of 15,600 square feet owned by the Skico at Lift 1A. The Skico’s requested value is $5,

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