Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder has taken legal action in hopes of stopping the state from making the unusual move of holding a hearing in Indianapolis for a Hebron apartment complex seeking to retain its tax exempt status.
"They've always been held up here," Snyder said of the hearings before the Indiana Board of Tax Review.
Why this one is being handled differently, he could not say and officials with the tax review board were not readily available Tuesday for comment.
Snyder, through attorney John Bushemi, filed a motion seeking to move the Jan. 18 hearing from the Indiana Government Center South in Indianapolis to the Porter County Administration Center in Valparaiso.
The hearing was triggered when the owners of the Misty Glen apartment complex in Hebron appealed the 2013 decision by the Porter County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals to withdraw the unit's tax exempt status. The three-member board agreed that the owners, Hebron-Vision LLC, failed to show it qualifies for the breaks through charitable efforts.
Snyder's motion says the rules of procedure "permit the hearing before an administrative law judge to be held in the county in which the property subject to the appeal is located, which in this case is Porter County."
Snyder said Tuesday, "In the spirit of transparency the taxpayers of Hebron should have the opportunity to attend this appeal hearing so that they can better understand how their tax bill is impacted by tax exemptions."
The nearly 11-year-old Hebron-Vision LLC company is listed with the state as being based in Indianapolis. A telephone message left for the registered agent was not immediately returned.
The five-building, 80-apartment complex at 99 Misty Lane was granted tax exempt status in 2009 by the Indiana Board of Tax Review.
"The taxpayers need to understand why, if they do it again," Snyder said.
Hebron-Vision LLC argues in its appeal the property is used to provide "safe, decent and affordable housing in a charitable manner for ... low-income and very low-income individuals and families."
"Through those acts, a benefit inures to the public sufficient to justify the loss of tax revenue," according to the appeal
Board of appeals member Nicholas Sommer had said the tax exempt status was pulled because there was no evidence presented during the March 2013 hearing of charitable or educational efforts on behalf of the apartment operators.
Hebron-Vision, which purchased the complex in September 2007, argued at the time it received the exemption that it offers services to tenants such as newsletters, referral programs, holiday parties, access to office equipment and free blood pressure screenings.
Sommer said the rental rates are compatible with the Hebron market and not significantly better than competing units, he said.
Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals member Joe Wszolek said the operators evict residents who are unable to pay their rent.
Sommer said the evidence also showed Misty Glen is generating a profit, which is not being kept in Porter County.
Sandy Bickel, an Indianapolis attorney representing Hebron-Vision, said at the time the affordable housing provided at the complex probably will be lost if the tax exemption is removed.
She said it is very unusual for a county to initiate an effort like this to remove tax exemption granted by the state.