Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Universal Orlando sues over $275 million tax assessment of parking garages

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 4:22 PM

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According to a lawsuit filed Friday in Orange Circuit Court, Universal Orlando Resort is suing over its $275 million tax assessment for the theme park and CityWalk parking garages, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Calling this year's assessment "excessive" for the North and South garages — which were the largest parking garages in the world when they were built in the 1990s — the lawsuit names Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh, County Tax Collector Scott Randolph and Leon Biegalski, executive director for the Florida Department of Revenue.

Universal is reportedly accusing Singh of failing to use "professionally accepted appraisal practices."

From the Sentinel:
It’s not an unusual move for a corporation to turn to the court system in an attempt to reduce land values, especially in the theme-park industry.

“That’s the nature of the business,” Singh told the Sentinel during an October interview.

In September, Singh settled with SeaWorld Orlando to end a multiyear tax dispute. The two sides determined SeaWorld’s assessed value will remain at $182.5 million for 2014 and decrease to about $171 million for 2015 and 2016. SeaWorld’s taxable value also cannot exceed $178 million for the upcoming 2017 tax year, the Sept. 20 settlement agreement said.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is also fighting Singh in court after the company filed 11 lawsuits in Orange Circuit Court in May to dispute the 2016 tax assessments for its Disney World properties, including Magic Kingdom.

A lawsuit from 2015, in which Universal also sued Singh over the valuation of the two garages when he appraised them for $148.6 million, is still pending.

Additionally, in an Associated Press article published in March, Singh explained that the issue in play isn't about how high his office values the properties, but how low they were assessed prior to his term in the county's office.
"I looked at this with a professional appraiser's eye. Perhaps it has never been looked at with the eyes of an appraiser," Singh told the Orlando Tourism Report in April. "This office has been functioning in a level of what I consider to unconscious competence. They didn't know what they didn't know. I'll give you a great example; when the entire theme park of Magic Kingdom is assessed less than the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, that's a problem. The entire theme park, the land and all the improvements.

"Picture that for a minute," Singh continued in the interview. "and that's speaks volumes."

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