Nashua to appeal court ruling on Radisson tax rebate
"We have made a decision to appeal," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday.
For the past three weeks, city officials have been debating whether to appeal a ruling by Judge Jacalyn Colburn of the Hillsborough County Superior Court. The judge previously sided with the Radisson Hotel, which successfully sought three years of tax abatements in a civil suit claiming the city issued excessive and disproportionate assessments to the hotel.
The decision to appeal was reached last Friday, according to Lozeau, who said it was a unanimous decision made by several individuals, including herself, the city's deputy corporation counsel, the city treasurer, chief financial officer and chief of assessing.
Lozeau said she is disappointed the case has gotten to this point, explaining it could be a lengthy process until it is resolved. The appeal filing will be submitted to the New Hampshire Supreme Court by Wednesday, she said, declining to comment on the pros and cons of pursuing the appeal and ultimately extending the litigation process.
"The city's chief assessor prides himself on getting it right 90 percent of the time," said Lozeau. "No one thought the value of that hotel was less than $5 million. I have heard from people in the community who are surprised by this. It just doesn't make sense."
An assessing expert representing the Radisson Hotel, Wesley Reeks, previously testified that the city's assessment of the property from 2009-2011, averaging between $9.6 million and $12.2 million, should have been closer to an assessed value of $4.9 to $6.7 million, according to court documents.
The court recently ruled in favor of the hotel owner, AFP 105 Corp., and Southern New Hampshire Hospitality LLC, while also denying a reconsideration request by city attorneys.
Colburn agreed that the fair market value of the hotel should have been $6,770,000 in 2009, $4,960,000 in 2010, and $5,810,000 in 2011; the city's values were nearly double those amounts. She granted the hotel's request for tax abatements for those three years, which totals about $800,000.
Lozeau said the castle-like Radisson Hotel sits on a huge piece of property in Nashua, and that it has the largest banquet hall in the city. The 336-room, seven-story hotel was originally built in 1981, but has undergone significant improvements. It sits on 17-acres of property off Exit 1 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike.
To date, about $16,000 has been spent on legal fees fighting the Radisson abatement case, Lozeau said on Wednesday, explaining there is an overlay account to pay for such matters.
"I don't think it will be unreasonable," Lozeau said of the additional costs to appeal the superior court ruling. "I think it is worth the cost associated with it."
In the meantime, the mayor said the city will not have to immediately pay the $800,000 tax refund to the hotel while the case is being appealed.
She said the city has appealed tax abatement rulings in the past, but Lozeau did not cite any specific instances.
"We don't usually move something of this significance," she said, adding it is often settled before reaching the Supreme Court level.
Due to the pending litigation, Attorney Margaret Nelson of Sulloway and Hollis, who is representing the Radisson, declined to comment Wednesday on the upcoming appeal. In-house legal counsel for AFP 105 Corp., Rachel Laufer, was not immediately available for comment.
According to the hotel's property taxes posted on the city's website, the Radisson paid about $320,000 in taxes in 2009, nearly $330,000 in property taxes in 2010, and about $336,000 in 2011 based on the city's assessed values of the hotel.
'Everybody was extremely fortunate'