Pitkin County fends off appeals of property value | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County fends off appeals of property value

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Pitkin County Assessor’s Office has prevailed in two more big-ticket property-value assessments that were challenged at the state level – involving the Viceroy in Snowmass Village and the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt.

The state Board of Assessment Appeals recently sided with the county in both cases, according to Tom Isaac, county assessor.

The decisions in the county’s favor, Isaac said, have ramifications for various local taxing districts that get a share of the property tax revenues that are collected by the county but distributed to various entities, including municipalities, fire districts, school districts and many others.

“We were so far apart that had the Viceroy won, it would have drastically affected the taxing districts in Snowmass Village,” Isaac said. “It would have been huge.”

Still pending is a dispute over the 2011 tax assessment for the Snowmass Club.

The county valued the Viceroy, a luxury hotel, at $111.5 million for 2011. Representatives of the property argued it should be valued at $23 million, the result of valuing the hotel solely as a commercial property, because it operates as a hotel. The county assessed the bulk of the hotel as a residential property because the units were to be sold to individual owners.

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Had the Viceroy prevailed in its appeal, the county would have had to issue a property tax refund of $444,186, according to Larry Fite, chief appraiser.

In another case, the county and Roaring Fork Club reached a compromise on the value of the cabins associated with the club, which are sold in fractional shares, but the value of the golf course/fishing club and clubhouse were the subject of a hearing before the state board in Denver.

The county put the value of the property at $19 million; representatives of the club put the value at $9 million but revised it downward to $7 million at the hearing, according to Fite.

The county valued the golf course according to the guidelines established by the state Department of Property Taxation, according to Isaac, taking into account the value of both sold and unsold memberships, as well as other operating revenues, in assigning a value to the golf course. An official with the state’s taxation office testified at the hearing, Isaac said.

“It was a big question whether the state and our office would be upheld, and we were,” he said.

The club used only operating revenues and the as-yet-unsold memberships in its calculation, Fite said.

The membership issue is also at the heart of the pending case involving the Snowmass Club, owned by Aspen Skiing Co. The county has placed the value of the golf course and athletic club at $16.4 million; representatives of the club have placed it at $2 million.

Last month, the state ruled in the county’s favor in an appeal of the value assigned to The Little Nell, Skico’s luxury hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain. The county assigned it an actual value of $67.5 million, which was reduced to $55.5 million in an appeal to the county’s Board of Equalization. The agent representing the Nell contended $20 million was the accurate value, but before the state board, the hotel’s representative set the property’s value at $37.7 million. The county stuck with the $55.5 million figure, which the state upheld.

The county’s assessment translates to a property tax bill of $519,148 in 2011 and, presumably, 2012. Had the hotel’s value been adjusted to $37.7 million, the annual property tax bill would amount to $346,062, according to Fite.

Among other cases that were resolved through compromise were the valuations of vacant property slated for a hotel development at the base of Lift 1A in Aspen and the Hotel Jerome property.

In all, 43 cases potentially headed to a state board hearing represented $2.5 million in taxes to be paid, depending on the outcome of the cases, Fite told county commissioners in July.

“We had a number of big cases,” Isaac said. “I think it was an indication of the economy as a whole that people were willing to take it to the next level.”

Once a case has been heard by the state board, it can be appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals within 30 days. That window remains open for the Roaring Fork Club and Viceroy cases, Isaac said.

janet@aspentimes.com