Woodland shopping center owner receives reprieve


by Rick Langenberg:

If you want to receive a good commercial tax refund, don’t be shy about exhibiting detailed financial records and vacancy statistics.

That became the theme of a property abatement appeal, filed by Bill Page, the owner of the Gold Hill Square Shopping Center in Woodland Park, during a hearing last week before the Teller County Commissioners.

The commissioners agreed to give Page a much better deal than the ones proposed by Assessor Betty Clark-Wine and granted him a nearly $1.7 million reduction in his property values for the Gold Hill Square South Shopping Center for the 2013 tax year. Altogether, the property owner was trying to appeal the values placed on four different parcels, pertaining to properties at Gold Square South.

In nearly every case, these properties represented challenges for Page due to large-scale vacancies, such as buildings once occupied by a major financial institution and a local hardware business. Altogether, Page reported a 20 percent vacancy rate at the center. That fact made an impression on the commissioners, who made it clear they weren’t going to stamp a blanket approval on the recommendations of the assessor. They grilled her figures in-depth and asked repeatedly how these values were reached.

Clark-Wine, who mostly based her calculations on the business income calculations of representatives from her office, agreed to reduce the values previously slapped on the shopping center, but not by the extent that the shopping owner wanted. Despite a somewhat lengthy hearing, the commissioners sided with Clark-Wine on two of the properties, including one previously occupied by the Ent Credit Union and a property occupied by various retail outlets. The main differences occurred over a building that once served as the home of Do It Best Hardware and Home, which moved to a new outlet inside the Woodland Station as part of the Woodland Hardware expansion. Page cited the difficulty of finding a single tenant for this nearly 30,000 square-foot center “It works good as one user,” said the shopping center owner. And even if he found a tenant, Page estimated it would probably take five to seven years before he experienced the income he received previously from this building.

That made an impression on both commissioners Marc Dettenrieder and Steen. In a striking difference from the recommendations of Clark-Wine, they agreed with Page and reduced his values on this structure from $2.4 million to $1.7 million. Clark-Wine had offered a reduction, but nothing compared to the request made by Page.

The commissioners also sided with Page on another section of Gold Hill Square South, part of which is occupied by the Teller County Republican Party. Page jokingly told the commissioners he gave the local party one heck of a lease deal, but he didn’t mind doing this since he is a Republican himself. That got a few laughs from the commissioners, who have made no pretentions about their strong alliance with the Republican Party.

Both Dettenrieder and Steen said they are quite familiar with this site. They agreed with Page that this upper section of Gold Hill Square was overvalued and endorsed the petitioner’s estimate of $994,876 value for a 15,000 square-foot area. This was very close in value to what Clark-Wine recommended.

Busy time on the state front

In other action, the commissioners last week stated they are gearing up for the 2015 state legislative session at the state capitol.

Altogether, at least 230 bills have been introduced by state lawmakers. This will provide major challenges for the commissioners, who plan to monitor the state legislative front to make sure Teller doesn’t get hit with any surprise attacks, such as bills that impact gaming or mining.

The commissioners also may get involved in the anti-gun control legislation, expected to become a big subject across the state in 2015. Republican state leaders want to ax certain gun control measures previously enacted by s lawmakers several years ago in the wake of a massacre inside an Aurora movie theater. For the first time in recent years, the Republicans control the state Senate. This development has been warmly welcomed by the commissioners, who believe they can get more done with a more friendly GOP state legislature. In addition, several Republican lawmakers who represent Teller County now have key leadership positions.