Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Town reaffirms assessments of Lodge condos

by Chris Schultz

October 27, 2011

LYONS TOWNSHIP — With little discussion, the town of Lyons Board of Review voted 5-0, to uphold its assessments of the condominium hotel rooms at the Timber Ridge Lodge at Grand Geneva Resort.

The individual owners of the 224 rooms at the lodge are challenging the assessments. The owners organized earlier this year to file a lawsuit in Walworth County Circuit Court against the town, alleging the town overvalued their properties in a recent appraisal.

Don Millis, attorney representing the room owners, said the town’s action wasn’t unexpected.

He said the two sides are still talking, hoping to settle the assessment dispute before it goes to a judge. He said town officials recently asked for more information on the owners’ challenge to the official assessment.

“We’re hoping to settle this issue,” Millis said.

Still, he said, the Timber Ridge group had hoped to have the issue settled by now.

If the issue is unsettled before December, the condominium owners will have to pay taxes based on the disputed assessment. If the assessment is reduced in favor of the condominium owners, the town will owe them a refund on their taxes, Millis said.

Millis and the room owners claim that a depressed real estate market and difficulty in selling condominium hotel rooms has caused a drop in the market and a decrease in the value of the rooms.

According to the town, the total assessment of the disputed property is about $45.6 million, while the condo owners claim the actual value of the properties is about $25.6 million.

Based on the condo owner’s figures, their total property taxes should have been $387,375 in 2010, instead of the $690,422 collected by the town.

Attorney Ben Brantmeier, who represents the town in the lawsuit, said the Board of Review’s action has more to do with setting a tax levy than with negotiations over property values.

He said the town had to settle its assessments by Nov. 1 to meet the levy deadline.

However, the action does not mean the town is giving up reaching a settlement with the condo owners.

“We’re still keeping our ears and eyes open to reach a resolution,” Brantmeier said.

He said both sides are now waiting for a judge to set a date for a scheduling conference, so the two sides can set deadlines for reaching an agreement.

If no agreement is reached, the issue will probably go before a judge.

Timber Ridge has two sizes of hotel rooms, one bedroom and two bedrooms.

The one-bedroom suites are about 696 square feet, and the two -bedroom suites are 927 square feet, Millis said.

Last Wednesday, the town’s Board of Review reaffirmed an assessment of $180,000 for the one-bedroom suites and $268,900 for the two-bedroom suites.

Based on the owners’ assessments, however, those condo values should be reduced to $94,000 for the one-bedroom suites and $170,000 for the two-bedroom.

Although the property is on land owned by Marcus Corp., Timber Ridge is a “condo-tel,” where individuals and investment groups own the rooms.

The condominiums are vacation properties the owners may use for a limited time each year, and during the rest of the year, are rented out to Timber Ridge Lodge guests.

Owners receive a share of the room rental.

The lodge is on the property of the Grand Geneva, owned by Marcus Corp. Marcus Corp., Grand Geneva and Timber Ridge are not involved in the lawsuit.

In March, the town’s board of review also denied owners’ claims of inflated assessments.