Belfast's largest taxpayer gets $5M knocked off assessmentAssessor cites vacancy at Bank of America and On Process Technology property
Belfast — The owner of the most valuable property in the city, home to Bank of America and On Process Technology, has successfully appealed its tax assessment to the tune of $5 million.
STAG IV Belfast LLC owns 141 acres and four buildings that once comprised half of the former MBNA complex. The city valued the land and buildings last year at $33.2 million and billed for roughly $743,000 in taxes, making STAG IV the largest taxpayer in Belfast, according to city documents.
City Assessor Brent Martin said Friday that he dropped the value of the property by $5 million based largely on two of the four buildings being vacant, and a third being only partially occupied.
"The positive spin on it is Belfast is open for business," Martin said.
The change, which translates to roughly $110,000 less in taxes. On Sept. 6 Martin said the revaluation among other factors, including an increase in the homestead exemption, contributed to a 0.5 decrease in the city's overall taxable value.
The City Council on Tuesday set the tax rate at $22.90 per $1,000 of property value, up from $22.40 in 2015.
The revised value of the STAG IV property after reassessment, roughly $28.4 million, puts it back where it was in 2008.
City records show the value of the property creeping up from 1998 to 2008, then jumping abruptly to $41 million in 2009.
Martin toured the complex after he was hired in February 2015 and dropped the value to $33.2 million. The review came at the request of STAG IV Belfast. Martin said he found the buildings had depreciated since the last assessment when they had been valued as "as if they were new."
STAG IV representatives approached the city again this spring. Martin said the company did not ask for a specific amount to be taken off the value. He visited the property at the end of June and held private negotiations with STAG IV before making a final determination last week.
STAG IV Belfast is a subsidiary of Single Tenant Acquisition Group (STAG), a real estate holding company that specializes in mid-sized industrial and commercial properties with, as the name implies, one tenant.
Bank of America fit the bill when the subsidiary acquired the Route 3 property in 2009. At the time, the company's call center filled the four-building complex. The company has gradually scaled back and now occupies just one of the four buildings. On Process Technology, a Massachusetts-based logistics company, opened offices at the opposite end of the complex last year. The two buildings between are vacant.
Income is one of several factors — along with market value, physical condition and depreciation — that assessors use to determine value, Martin said, and occupancy affects income.
The reduced assessment will apply to 2016 property taxes. Even after the $5 million cut, the STAG IV Belfast property will be the highest valued in the city by more than $10 million. The athenahealth complex comes next, valued at $17.3 million last year.
"It just seems fair for what's out there," Martin said. "Just because it's a large company and a large-valued property, we still have to be fair."