By the vote of an Assessments panel, dozens of jobs are lost, millions in property taxes are lost. And, a property on the beach could stay as a dump for another ten years.
“But several years later, Caruso approached Santa Barbara County with a proposal to tear down the old buildings if the county passed an ordinance allowing for new hotels to receive a 10-year bed tax rebate. The idea gained traction with
But with Caruso asking for less in property taxes, the Assessor Appeals Board gave the appeal a frosty reception. With no representative from Caruso present, board member Jana Zimmer grilled assessment staff on where they came up with those numbers. She noted one report seemed to have the owner seeking a $5 million value placed on the property.”.
If the ruling stands the property will not be worth $5 million, it will have a zero valuation. The land will continue to be good for dumping old cars and bodies—just like today. This, on a Santa Barbara beach, once of the most valuable pieces of properties in the State.
Another reason California is in a Depression—we prefer dumps on the beach to resorts and jobs.
By NICK C. TONKIN, the Daily Sound, 4/27/12
In a surprise move yesterday, the Santa Barbara Assessment Appeals Board refused to accept an agreement to reduce the value of the Miramar property owned by developer Rick Caruso.
In August of 2011, Caruso petitioned to have his property value reassessed in order to get his property taxes lowered. The county assessor’s office offered an agreement, known as a “stipulation”, lowering the number from $54 million to $30.5 million.
The Miramar property has had a tumultuous path since the hotel closed its doors in 2000. The property cycled through several owners before coming to Caruso in 2007. But his plans for a $170 million hotel suffered a meltdown with the economy in 2008.
But several years later, Caruso approached Santa Barbara County with a proposal to tear down the old buildings if the county passed an ordinance allowing for new hotels to receive a 10-year bed tax rebate. The idea gained traction with
But with Caruso asking for less in property taxes, the Assessor Appeals Board gave the appeal a frosty reception. With no representative from Caruso present, board member Jana Zimmer grilled assessment staff on where they came up with those numbers. She noted one report seemed to have the owner seeking a $5 million value placed on the property.
“Unless we have more information it kind of looks like the baby has been cut down the middle,” Zimmer said.
County appraiser Melissa Bonillo said staff had examined the value of luxury hotels similar to the one proposed by Caruso, their income, and maintenance. She said anything above the $30.5 million would prevent a decent return on investment.
“The project is not financially feasible if the land is worth more than $30.5 million,” Bonillo said.
County assessors said that when Caruso Affiliated purchased the property, it only held a 10 percent stake. That changed in May of 2010 when investors backed out and Caruso got 100 percent ownership.
Reassessments are done when a property changes ownership, or “control”. Though Caruso Affiliated had ownership from 2007, it did not have a controlling interest. Changes in control are common with properties owned by corporations or partnerships, as the people behind those entities come or go.
Several of Zimmer’s questions revolved around the rebate, wanting to know if it could change the property value again and if the property tax reduction would be tied to it.
Staff said once construction had been finished, there would be another reassessment, but they are confined to property tax code guidelines, putting a bed tax incentive out of their jurisdiction.
After consulting with county counsel board chair Donald Rowland wanted to reject the stipulation and argued that it would be “cleaner” to turn down Caruso’s appeal. He said if there’d already been grounds for a reassessment, having an appeal tossed in after ownership had already been handed over would just make the situation murky.
“That makes no sense,” Rowland said.
Rowland said if the board rejected the appeal, the assessors could just give the new value to the Treasurer’s office. Zimmer seemed similarly inclined, though she noted that she would be resigning and wouldn’t be at the next meeting.
Zimmer said she’d sent in her resignation several weeks ago.
“I’ve been involved with the county in one way or another for many many years and I feel like I can serve the public better in other contexts,” Zimmer said.
But even with their doubts about the agreement, procedure barred them from turning down the appeal flat. With only the stipulation on the agenda, the best the board could do is continue the matter until May.