HOBART — A long-running dispute over the assessed value of the Kohl's building adjacent to Southlake Mall looks to continue indefinitely following a ruling Monday by the Indiana Tax Court.
In a 16-page decision, Tax Court Judge Martha Blood Wentworth overturned the May 2018 assessment devised by the Indiana Board of Tax Review, and directed the board to assign a new value that comports with Indiana law for the 90,000 square foot building near U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street in Hobart.
Wentworth said the board improperly used "its own unique evaluation method" to decide between the appraisal prepared by Southlake Mall, which owns the 7.23 acre parcel that's home to the Kohl's store, and the appraisal crafted for the Lake County assessor.
As a result, Wentworth said the assessment set by the board was contrary to law and unsupported by substantial and reliable evidence.
"The Indiana board cited no evidence or authority to support its methodology," Wentworth said.
The board now must recalculate the assessed value of the Kohl's property in accordance with Wentworth's decision and state law.
Alternatively, either the mall or the county assessor can appeal the Tax Court ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The Lake County assessor's office declined to comment on the ruling. Other Lake County officials said they still were reviewing it.
The tax board's initial decision was seen as a win for Lake County taxing units because its assessed value for the Kohl's building was closer to the original value calculated by the county assessor than the value proposed by the mall's appraiser.
A significant reduction in the assessed value of the property could require local governments to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds to the mall for the 2007 to 2014 tax years that are the subject of the lawsuit.
Southlake Mall separately is challenging the 2011, 2012 and 2013 assessments for the mall itself, which could require local governments pay refunds of approximately $12 million if the mall prevails.
A five-day trial in that case is set to begin Aug. 17, 2020 at the Indiana Tax Court.