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Glenbrook, county settle tax dispute

After years of fighting over the bill, the owner of Glenbrook Square reached a settlement with the Allen County Assessor’s Office – relinquishing its claim to $20 million already distributed to various tax units.

Allen County Assessor Stacey O’Day, in a news release Friday, said General Growth Properties agreed the county can retain $20,323,328, which is about 90 percent of the $23 million in dispute.

As part of the settlement, however, announced Friday, the county returned $2,416,614 to General Growth Properties. With that payment, the litigation comes to end, according to the release.

Glenbrook’s owners could not immediately be reached for comment.

For a decade, General Growth Properties has appealed its tax bills. Each year, the company is one of Allen County’s largest tax payers, paying about $4.5 million annually in property taxes.

Since 2002, the mall and the assessor’s office have been at loggerheads when the county began requesting detailed financial information about the mall’s tenants.

Commercial properties can be assessed based on the amount of income they generate. To determine the value of income-producing properties, the assessor’s office must have information relating to the rental incomes derived from mall tenants

Since General Growth Properties bought the property in 2003 it has have annually filed an appeal.

The assessments of the property have been widely different, with Allen County currently assessing the property at $155.1 million.

In 2008, their most recent proposed assessment, General Growth Properties said the property’s value was $65 million, according to the release.

In her written statement, O’Day said the settlement came down to common sense.

“The return to General Growth Properties of 10% of the amount it paid reflects our attorneys’ assessment of the risk inherent in any litigation,” O’Day said in the written statement. “While confident that we would have prevailed in that litigation, the risk of an adverse judgment to the schools and other governmental entities, along with the litigation costs we would have incurred, led us to conclude that this was the responsible and prudent course.”

In 2009, General Growth Properties filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The shopping mall was included in the corporate bid to reduce and restructure debt.

As of July, it was reported about 15 million shoppers visit Glenbrook each year. The enclosed, two-story shopping center includes about 150 tenants, a food court and a two-story carousel.

County officials are pleased with the outcome.

“This settlement did not come easy,” O’Day said in the release. “We stood firm for the taxpayers and the tax units. We negotiated from a position of strength knowing that my staff had done an excellent job determining the assessed value of this extremely complex piece of real estate.

“The successful end to the litigation is a credit to their skill and effort. Finally, we appreciate Glenbrook’s willingness to negotiate this settlement in good faith,” O’Day continued. “We are grateful to have this successful business operation located in Allen County and we wish for its continued success.”