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Anderson Wigwam owners lose bid in Tax Court

December 14, 2018

The company which now owns the storied Anderson High School arena, known as the Wigwam, failed to convince the Indiana Tax Court it is entitled to an injunction against the collection of property taxes based on a valuation of more than $2 million.

In September 2014, Wigwam Holdings LLC acquired four parcels of land by quitclaim deed from the city of Anderson, which acquired the property from the Anderson Community School Corporation. The 8.56-acre parcel at issue included the 8,996-seat basketball facility. 

After the Madison County Assessor assessed the property at $11.42 million, Holdings appealed to the Madison County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals. The assessment was reduced to $2.12 million, but Holdings maintained the value remained too high.

Holdings then turned to the Indiana Board of Tax Review, claiming the assessment should be $68,500. To support its claim, the company, in part, relied on the testimony of Jay Allardt, who helped prepare the appraisal done in accordance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.

Allardt contended the Wigwam’s “highest and best use” was as vacant land because the building contained asbestos, was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, lacked air conditioning along with a sprinkler system and was in generally poor condition. He subtracted his estimated land value of $68,500 from his estimate of the building’s demolition and remediation costs of $559,000 to conclude the Wigwam’s market value was actually a negative $490,500 as of May 2014.

The county assessor offered the testimony of Anthony Garrison, an Indiana certified Level III Assessor-Appraiser. He argued that Allardt’s appraisal was inconsistent with the market value-in-use standard because it was based on a hypothetical use of the property as vacant land rather than its current use as improved land. Also, Allardt’s appraisal did not account for the requirement in the Quitclaim Deeds and accompanying escrow agreement that Holdings restore the Wigman’s gymnasium for the community’s future use.

At the Tax Court, Holdings filed a petition to enjoin the collection of the tax. The company asserted it was likely to prevail on the merits because it established a prima facie case which shifted the evidentiary burden and required the assessor to provide market-based evidence in rebuttal. However, the assessor did not meet his burden because he relied only on the cross-examining Holdings’ witnesses.

The Tax Court was not convinced and denied Holdings’ petition pending the resolution of the company’s appeal in Wigwam Holdings LLC v. Madison County Assessor, 18T-TA-00015.

In part, the court pointed out the assessor provided the findings of Garrison, who identified wide-ranging disparities between Allardt’s appraisal and his testimony compared to the valuation standards and assumptions underlying Indiana’s assessment guidelines.

“Here, the certified administrative record reveals that the parties presented conflicting evidence during the Indiana Board hearing calling into question the credibility of Holdings’ evidence,” Judge Martha Blood Wentworth wrote. “The Indiana Board exercised its discretion and weighted the evidence. Absent an abuse of discretion, the Court cannot reweigh that evidence. Accordingly, the Court finds that Holdings does not have a reasonable opportunity to prevail on this issue in its appeal.”

 

  

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