Sanatoga Plaza Owner, District Strike Tax Value Deal

The Sunnybrook Village shopping center

POTTSTOWN PA – The Pottsgrove School District has lost some, won some in recent negotiations with Heritage Building Group over the taxable value of its Sunnybrook Village retail shopping center at the intersection of East High Street and Heritage Drive in the heart of Sanatoga.

Heritage, headquartered in Warrington PA, contested and appealed the $3.4 million assessed value attached to the shopping center in 2009, according to district Business Manager David Nester. In a settlement with the district that avoids a court battle, approved last Tuesday (May 24, 2011) by the Board of School Directors, that value will be lowered to $2.6 million and provide the owner with a rebate on a portion of taxes it paid that year.

For 2010, however, the agreement stipulates the property’s taxable value rose by $100,000, from $2.6 million to $2.7 million; and during 2011 its value rises again, by slightly more, to a total to $2.805 million. Although the incremental increases are comparatively small, they do provide the district with added revenue year over year.

Fox Rothschild, the district’s legal firm, handled the settlement details.

Heritage is only one in a long line of commercial property owners who have challenged Pottsgrove and other school districts over assessed values of the properties in a dramatically declining real estate market.

Pottsgrove is continuing to similarly negotiate with Sears Holdings Corp. over the value of its K-Mart store property in Sanatoga. In what has been labeled as a potentially crippling blow to the Spring-Ford Area School District, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals is seeking a $5.5 million refund on property taxes paid for its Collegeville research complex.

In the latest wrinkle over assessments, local attorneys are encouraging home owners to contest their assessed values too, for the same reasons as businesses.

Only two weeks ago (May 20, 2011), a Wayne PA lawyer mailed letters to selected Pottsgrove home owners and offered to work on a contingency fee basis to reduce their property taxes through assessment challenges. “In this current economic climate many properties are being taxed at rates above their market value,” he wrote. “No one should pay more than their fair share of taxes!”

“If I do not reduce your real estate taxes there is no fee,” the letter added. “In fact, I am so confident in my ability to reduce your taxes that I will pay for all costs, including appraisal fees, if I am not successful.” There was no indication from the attorney involved as to how many letters were sent – at a cost of more than $1 each in postage alone – or its response rate.

Photo from Heritage Commercial Group