Maine Mall owner loses appeal of South Portland tax valuation

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The latest appeal of 2009 city property tax valuations by the owners of the Maine Mall was turned aside by the Maine Board of Property Tax Review in Augusta.

The board’s written decision is not yet available, but city Tax Assessor Elizabeth Sawyer said the refusal by mall owner General Growth Properties to provide  appraisals made for the company’s bankruptcy proceedings led the state to deny the Chicago-based company its right to appeal the $242 million valuation.

GGP can appeal the board’s decision, which was announced March 21, to Cumberland County Superior Court within 21 days. Attorney Jonathan Goldberg and GGP Property Tax Manager Mike Majury did not return phone calls seeking comment on a possible appeal of the ruling.

The appeal to the state came after the city Board of Assessment Review unanimously rejected company efforts to reduce the 2009 valuation by $60 million in July 2011. A favorable ruling would have required the city to repay about $900,000 in property taxes.

In the local appeal, the company appraisal was based on arguments the financial worth of the mall was based on lease contracts and reputation as well as physical property.

Sawyer said evidence of other appraisals made for GGP by real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield were indicated in court bankruptcy documents, and those appraisals were not released to her or the state board.

The state ruling could save the city more than $80,000 in costs associated with defending the 2009 appraisals, Sawyer said.

GGP owns malls throughout the country. It bought the Maine Mall a decade ago for $265 million, and was granted Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2010.

The state board previously rejected a GGP appeal of its 2006 valuation in a 2010 hearing. Sawyer said the city board of assessment review has also rejected the company’s appeals of 2010 and 2012 valuations.

Sawyer reduced the 2010 valuation to $210 million. She said company officials did not provide countering appraisals at the city review board hearing.

With 12 properties in and around the mall site, GGP is the biggest city property taxpayer, city Finance Director Greg L’Heureux said. In fiscal year 2013, the company paid $4.03 million in property taxes based on a $245 million valuation.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.