Lynchburg, VA - River Ridge Mall in Lynchburg is taking the City of Lynchburg to court. The trial date is next month. City officials say this lawsuit caught them by surprise. If the city loses, it could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to court documents ABC 13 got from Lynchburg Circuit Court, River Ridge Mall says the city assessed its property too high. Meaning, the mall believes it's paying more than its fair share in taxes to the City of Lynchburg. You can believe it, Lynchburg disagrees.
Greg Daniels is the Lynchburg City assessor. His office determines how much a property is worth. Take River Ridge Mall for instance. To set a value on a large property like a mall, assessors figure out how much money each store pays the mall, minus the mall's expenses. A little math and the city got $46 million. The mall disagrees, saying nope it's worth $35 million.
"It's simply just a matter of differing opinion that I believe the mall is worth one value and they believe it's worth less than that," said Daniels.
Daniels tells us the issue is over the movie theatre: In July 2009, the mall was in the middle of building Regal Cinemas. According to Virginia Law, Lynchburg is allowed to include buildings under construction when they assess property values. Daniels says he did just that.
"I try to treat all properties the same to be fair, and I'm just not willing to go down to the value that they want because I don't think that's consistent with how we value other property," said Daniels.
Court records lay out the mall's grievances. ABC 13 reached out to the mall's owners for comment, but did not hear back. But, according to the records, the mall says it was erroneously assessed, asks Lynchburg to refund some taxes plus interest. The mall wants $200,000 per year of taxes paid back over three years.
For Daniels, the city's case is air tight.
"I feel like we've been consistent with the practice, we haven't done anything any different, same type of methodology. I feel pretty good about the data and the case," said Daniels.
The trial date is set for two days in May - the 22nd and 23rd.
Lynchburg City's attorney says a tax case like this is pretty complex. The judge can side with the city, side with the mall, or choose a number in the middle. We'll keep you posted.