Property assessment dispute with Slinger's Dove Plaza unresolved
But board could vote on issue at Sept. 16 meeting, administrator says

By Joe VanDeLaarschot

Sept. 5, 2019

 Dove Plaza in Slinger along Highway 60 is seen under cloudy skies Wednesday morning. The property’s owner is involved in a dispute with the village over how much the property is worth for tax purposes when there are many vacancies and empty storefronts.
Joe VanDeLaarschot/Daily News Staff

SLINGER — Could there be an end in sight in the property assessment dispute between the village and the owners of Dove Plaza?

In 2017 the owner of Dove Plaza, Suresh Misra, began a legal dispute with the village over the tax assessment the village had set on the property. The village said the property was worth about $3.1 million, while Misra and his legal team claimed because the mall was largely vacant, it was worth much less — about $1.5 million. Misra is a family practice physician in Milwaukee. Dove Plaza is at 1054 E. Commerce Blvd.

Village Administrator  Margaret Wilber said Tuesday night at the end of the Village Board’s regular meeting at Village Hall, a closed session was held where the village attorney in the case provided an update on the matter to village leaders.

“I can’t really discuss what took place in closed session,” Wilber said. “But we expect to have something for the board to actually vote on at their Sept. 16 meeting.”

Wilber would provide no other details.

In early 2018 Misra attempted to convince the village’s Board of Review to reduce the tax assessment from about $3.1 million to about $1.5 million. The panel did not change the assessed value. In February 2018 the village then received a notice of claim from attorneys representing Misra and his business seeking the same reduction in the assessment and a refund from the village of about $25,100, plus interest, from the amount they feel was excessively paid to the village.

'Their claim was denied at the Board of Review and they really had a lack of evidence to try to prove their point,' said Village President and Board of Review member Russ Brandt said in 2018. 'They could have presented more evidence on their behalf, but they chose not to. They could also have taken the claim to circuit court, but they didn’t.'

Wilber said Wednesday that Dove Plaza’s case lost some of its steam after Dove Plaza had been placed on the market for sale at a price higher than Misra had claimed in the dispute than the property was actually worth in his opinion.

At the Board of Review meeting agent Gary Kohlenberg, working on behalf of Dove Plaza, said the building has not had full tenant capacity for some time and that only 53 percent of the building was being rented then. He stated that the owner has done everything to fill the vacancies.

According to the minutes from that meeting, Kohlenberg said Misra had hired several agencies to market the building, he had lowered the rent, and he also stated he felt if the owner were to sell the building he could not sell it for anywhere near the assessed value. He stated that the revenue/lack of revenue from tenants needs to be considered to determine the real value.

Kohlenberg was also asked at the Board of Review meeting if there was a current financial statement or any of the leases for review. Kohlenberg stated he did not have any leases or statements from 2016 which Brandt said at that time showed the lack of supporting evidence provided for Dove Plaza’s position.

The village’s assessor said last year he felt the assessment was reasonable based on current market rents, leasing and sales, gross potential, and the fact that the actual lease documents are not available for review. He also noted that in 2009 the building was assessed at $3.6 million, so the assessment had been reduced over the years.

The village’s insurance carrier has been involved in the legal dispute on the village’s behalf.

Misra’s argument mirrors that of the “dark store loophole” used by big box retailers such as Walmart and Target.

Stores across Wisconsin and other parts of the country have increasingly argued local governments have been overvaluing — and thus, overtaxing — their properties. The companies have sought courts’ help in reducing assessments by claiming their stores should be valued no differently than nearby empty or “dark” stores. In turn, municipalities have urged state governments to pass legislation that would close the dark store loophole.