Liberty Center seeking a $31 million drop in property value

Mega mixed-use Liberty Center owners are asking the Butler County Board of Revisions to reduce their property value by $31 million due to economic conditions, which could impact the Lakota Schools.

Liberty Center filed applications March 5 asking for property value reductions on eight of 18 parcels that are currently valued at a total of $124.4 million. The form application states the reason as “Recent sale(s) of comparable properties. Physical, economic, functional depreciation or obsolescence. Economic valuation based on gross or net income.”

Liberty Center officials could not be reached for comment.

Some of the properties include the Cheesecake Factory, the Cobb Liberty Luxury 15 and CineBistro, the Foundry and parking garages.

“Well I guess a lot of businesses are looking for ways to cut costs,” said Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds, who is in charge of the Board of Revision, which includes representatives from his office, county Treasurer Nancy Nix and the commissioners. “And reducing their property taxes is one approach.”

The properties are part of the University Pointe tax increment financing district, so tax revenues to local jurisdictions, other than the Lakota Schools, only totaled $3,725 for this year. Since 2015 Lakota has received $21.3 million from the TIF, and the annual payments would be impacted by a reduction.

Lakota Schools Treasurer/CFO Jenni Logan said the district does not plan to challenge the revision request.

“The economy is just starting to reboot and Butler County has just come through a revaluation process,” Jenni Logan said. “We are hopeful these requests represent a temporary impact to these businesses’ financial health and the future is brighter for all of us.”

The county commissioners and Liberty Twp. forged a complicated development deal with the developer that included $37 million in taxpayer-backed bonds to build the parking garage and water lines for the project. There have been issues with the bond payments over the past couple years.

Commissioner Don Dixon said the new Liberty Center owner Apollo Commercial Real Estate notified the county recently about restructuring the original development deal.

“They would like to revisit how the agreement was structured, the payments and whatever else is out there, some of the operations issues,” Dixon said. “We haven’t discussed it as a board, no decisions have been made, but we all want to see it be successful. But we’re going to do what’s best for the taxpayers at the end of the day.”

Liberty Twp. Trustee Board President Tom Farrell said officials there have been meeting with Liberty Center and county officials to discuss tactics for the large mixed-use center as it comes out of the pandemic, and the devaluation of some of the property “is part of the master plan to get us back to normal.”

“Obviously the pandemic hit us all in different ways and we have to all try to work together to get back normal,” Farrell said. “To do that we need to give a little and take a little and this is one of the areas I believe we need to give a little. I think Liberty Center is on the mend, they’re rebounding and only time will tell.”

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