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US Steelworkers Local 6787 hall and Duneland Falls Meeting facility

The U.S. Steelworkers Local 6787 Duneland Falls banquet facility, shown here, and union hall, both on Ind. 149.

The United Steelworkers Local 6787 has raised the white flag of surrender in its long battle for property tax exemptions on its Portage union hall and banquet center.

The union local recently withdrew its latest round of challenge before the Indiana Board of Tax Review, according to documentation provided by Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder.

The union declined comment when contacted Thursday morning.

The petition involved tax assessments done in 2012, 2014 and 2016, according to the announcement made to the state by union attorney James Gilday.

Snyder said the union's decision is good news for Porter County.

"The assessor is relieved that after many years of dealing with the Steelworkers' appeals we have finally reached the end of the road," he said. "The county has always believed that the Steelworkers' purpose is noble, yet this doesn't legally preclude them from having to pay property taxes."

The withdraw comes nearly a year after an Indiana Tax Court judge rejected an earlier attempt by the union to win the tax exemption for prior years.

The judged ruled Local 6787 is not primarily a charitable or educational entity.

In a 12-page ruling, Indiana Tax Court Judge Martha Blood Wentworth rejected the union's claim that because its members generally are better educated than other citizens due to participation in union activities, and its buildings sometimes are used for free by charitable groups, that it qualifies to pay no property tax.

She determined the Indiana Board of Tax Review properly concluded the buildings mainly are used by the union for the personal economic benefit of its members, and any public benefit merely is "incidental" and "pursued for self-interest rather than for altruistic or philanthropic motives."

At issue were the 2008 and 2010 property taxes assessed on the Steelworkers' 12,000-square-foot union hall and 22,000-square-foot banquet/meeting center on 20 acres of land on the west side of Ind. 149, just south of U.S. 20, in Portage.

The property and buildings were determined to be worth $3.5 million in 2008 and $5 million in 2010, according to court records.

The Porter County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals first rejected the request for exemptions, which resulted in the appeals to the state.

The Steelworkers union hall isn't the only challenge of its kind in Porter County.

In November, Laborers International Union of North America Local 81 learned it again had been turned down for property and personal tax exemptions on its new building at 3502 Enterprise Ave. in Valparaiso.

The Board of Tax Review denied the request for educational and charitable exemptions upon appeal after they were first denied in September 2016 by the local PTABOA.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.