Niagara Gazette

January 22, 2013

Turtle assessment is lowered by council

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The Turtle building, owned by Niagara Falls Redevelopment, will be worth $600,000 less in the eyes of the city’s Department of Assessment soon.

The city council voted unanimously to pass a resolution that will allow the city’s law department to execute a settlement with the development firm that will lower the assessed taxable value of the building from $1.5 million to $900,000 and will require the city to repay the company the difference in taxes for the last two years.

The city will take in $18,800 less in taxes this year and will have to repay the company more than $37,000.

First Deputy Corporation Counsel Tom O’Donnell, who handled the case for the city, said a settlement would give the city certainty in a lawsuit that could prove costly to litigate with no assurances that the results would be as favorable for the city as the terms of the settlement.

Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian said the council took the recommendation of the law department that the city settle to avoid dragging things out in court.

“I’m not a lawyer or assessor,” Choolokian said. “I’ve got to take their word that this is the best deal for the city of Niagara Falls.”

Choolokian said that a number of factors played into the law department’s recommendation, including a $20,000 bill that would have come to the city for both the city’s independent assessor and the company’s assessor had NFR been successful in the suit.

“Right now we’ve got to get everything back on the tax rolls and keep things moving,” he said.

The company challenged the city’s tax assessment on a number of its real estate holdings last year.

Choolokian said that he doesn’t feel that settling on this particular property will set a precedent for any future law suits the company might bring challenging the assessment of its property.

“We’ve got to look at each one individually,” Choolokian said.

In other council matters;

• Measures to approve appropriation agreements with the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center and the Niagara Falls Block Club Council were defeated. Choolokian, Councilman Sam Fruscione and Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. voted no to the measures while Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti and Councilman Charles Walker voted yes.

• The appropriation agreement for the Niagara Falls Beautification Commission was tabled.

• The council unanimously voted down a change order to a consulting contract on the John B. Daly Boulevard extension project that would have paid environmental consultants Stanec Consulting Group, Inc. an additional $100,000.