CROWN POINT — Lake County officials say they have won a favorable ruling in a property tax appeal by Southlake Mall.
John Dull, an attorney for the Board of Commissioners, said Monday the Indianapolis-based Indiana Board of Tax Review issued a decision last week upholding Lake County's valuation for the years 2011 through 2014 of the regional shopping mall on U.S. 30 in Hobart.
"This was one of the largest valuation disputes in (local) property tax — going against the state’s largest law firm with a taxpayer with more resources than us — and we beat them back," Dull said.
Ross Township Assessor Angela Guernsey, whose office oversees assessments of the mall, said the township and county gained millions of dollars a year in assessed value they would have lost if the tax board had ruled against them.
"The mall was even requesting an assessed value of less than 50 percent for one year of what the board finally determined," she said.
"Our office did a great deal of research finding a qualified appraiser to do Southlake Mall, which is a unique property. We found Mark Kenney, who is very experienced. My staff and I worked very closely with him doing site inspections and supplying him with any documents he would need," Guernsey said.
Southlake Mall, 2109 Southlake Mall, opened in 1974. The super regional mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street has 1.3 million square feet of retail space, making it the second largest mall in Indiana after the Castleton Square Mall in northeast Indianapolis.
It has 150 stores, a 12-screen AMC movie theater and restaurants such as Cooper's Hawk Restaurant and Winery. Anchor tenants include Macy's, Sears and Dick's Sporting Goods.
Dull said if the decision had gone in favor of the mall, the county was in jeopardy of having to refund about $12 million in back taxes to Southlake. "The board’s decision has added real money to the tax rolls," he said.
Dull said the mall may appeal this decision to the Indiana Tax Court in Indianapolis, which has jurisdiction over appeals of final determinations by the Indiana Board of Tax Review.
Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince declined comment on the ruling, until the review board makes the entire ruling public in the coming weeks.
Guernsey said this comes six months after another favorable ruling by the Indiana Board of Tax Review on an appeal involving a Kohl's outlet, a 90,000-square-foot, two-story, free-standing business constructed in 1992 and operating within the Southlake Mall property.
The tax board's Kohl's decision, issued May 30, stated the county overassessed Kohl's between 2007 and 2014, but the board chose a new valuation proposed by the county assessor's expert higher than one supported by the retailer.
Prince said that decision is still under review.