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Brookfield being sued over Boston Store property taxes

City, Bonstores Realty in litigation over 2009-12 assessments

March 6, 2013

Brookfield and Bonstores Reality One, owner of Boston Store at Brookfield Square Mall, are bumping heads over property taxes.

The retail giant filed a Claim for Excessive Assessment and a refund for a portion of the 2012 property taxes paid to the city for its location at the mall.

According to the claim, the property was assessed at $23.6 million by the city for the tax year 2012.

Bonstores appealed the assessment, contending that the fair market value for the property as of Jan. 1 2012 was $15.7 million, a difference of $8 million.

"The city of Brookfield assessor made jurisdictional errors in the valuation of this property," the claim reads. "These errors include consideration of improper sales and rental comparables and improper consideration of the purchase price and rental rate of the subject property established in a non-arm's length transaction."

Robert Scott, director or finance for the city, said Robert Lorier, the city assessor, has more than 35 years of experience, and has been recognized by the state in the commercial assessment area.

"I am confident the value that was placed on the property is fair and equitable in accordance with the law," Scott said.

Lorier was not available for comment.

Bonstores paid its first installment of the $391,230 tax bill - $195,600 - on time, but said that amount was $65,570 more than it should have been, the claim said.

"Should the city of Brookfield fail to grant this claim by July 31, Bonstores will be required to pay the second installment of an additional $195,600, resulting in total damages of $131,140," Bonstores said in the claim.

The assessment appeal was denied at the Board of Review, and the company filed a claim thereafter.

The claim was denied at the city's Finance Committee meeting Feb. 19, and the resolution denying the claim was passed by the Common Council the same evening.

"The city's legal counsel in the assessment litigation has advised the city should deny the claim," a memo by Robert Scott, director of finance, said. "The city will then look to add the 2012 claim to the existing lawsuit for the 2009, 2010, and 2011 assessments."

The city and Bonstores are in litigation in Waukesha County Circuit Court regarding the assessments for the past four years.

A trial scheduled for March was delayed at the request of Bonstores due to one of its key witnesses being unavailable.

Scott said Claims for Excessive Assessments are rare in Brookfield.

"I've been here 13 years and this is the largest claim I've ever seen," Scott said.

Bonstores Realty filed a similar lawsuit against the city of Wauwatosa in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2011 for 2009 and 2010 property assessments, and the assessments were upheld.

The company also filed Claims of Excessive Assessments for its other Boston Store properties throughout the state, including in Racine and Eau Claire, during the same time period.

Should the city lose the case, the city would have to refund the excess taxes that were collected, including interest back to the date the tax payments were received.

Since the property in question is part of a tax-incremental financing district, the city would not have to collect money from its taxing jurisdictions, like schools and the county.

The attorney for Bonstores Realty was not available for comment.

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