Tim Schooley, Pittsburgh Business Times Reporter covers the case lead by APTC Pennsylvania Member - Sharon DiPaolo, Esq., as published by Pittsburgh Business Times January, 2012
The owners of the Robert J. Casey Industrial Park on the North Side are petitioning the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick to ensure commercial property owners have to same opportunity to appeal their reassessments as residential property owners in Allegheny Count, according to a court filing.
The petition to intervene in the ongoing legal challenge of the reassessment values for Allegheny County is the latest plea to argue for uniform standards to tax the value of real estate in Allegheny County in a legal battle in which the issue of uniformity has been upheld by Wettick.
The family ownership of the eight-parcel industrial park saw its reassessed value jump by 340 percent, according to court documents, rising from a little more than $2.6 million in its 2011 assessed value to a reassessed value for 2013 of $11,864)00.
Sharon F. DiPaolo, a lawyer who represent the owners of the Robert J. Casey Industrial Park, argued in her petition that Allegheny County currently provides no information online regarding comparable sales to determine new assessments or other pertinent information used.
"The interests of commercial property owners are not adequately represented by the current parties and intervenors in the instant action", she wrote.
Of major concern for DiPaolo and her client is the ability to pursue an informal hearing before the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review, where a broader a discussion of a property's relative worth can be discussed, rather than a formal appeal before the county's board of viewers.
So far, the reassessment appeals process has been negotiated over between Allegheny County, the plaintiffs, who represent residential property owners, and Pittsburgh Public Schools, which convinced Wettick to delay implementation of the new assessed values
until 2013 so that reassessment appeals can be established to determine how to reset tax rates.
According to court documents, the reassessed values of commercial properties in Pittsburgh rose by 71.08 percent while the city's residential property increased by 46.89 percent.
"If this process were to be adopted, a commercial property owner which files an appeal before the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review could be entirely deprived .... by its adjudication by a taxing body's unilateral request to move the appeal to the board of viewers," wrote DiPaolo. "If this procedure were to be adopted, it would violate commercial property owners' right to due process."
At a hearing on Thursday morning, Judge Wettick agreed to consider the petition for next Thursday's scheduled hearing, said DiPaolo.
She added that the owners of the industrial park as well as other commercial property owners expressed the concern that the scale of the increased assessments on their real estate could force them out of business.
She emphasized the importance of the informal review process for commercial property owners, noting a commercial appraisal costs $5,000 to $10,000. A successful voluntary review can result in immediate tax relief, she added, further explaining that a burden of proof shifts to the taxing body after a successful informal review as well.
"If the commercial owners have to pay on their new assessments before it gets adjudicated it's really going to hurt," she said.