Major commercial cases dominate tax court appeals in efforts to drive down property valuations, according to a report given Tuesday by the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office.

The number of taxpayers who petition to challenge their property valuations is small — under 100 annually compared to tens of thousands of taxpayers. But commercial business and industry dominate the list of those who challenge their valuations.

The companies fight hard, sometimes going to trial, and the cases take up a lot of time, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nora Sandstad told the St. Louis County Board on Tuesday during a board workshop.

“Most of these cases get dismissed,” Sandstad said, regarding cases brought by major retailers, health care providers and hotel chains. “At some point, it gets too costly for the petitioner to see any value in it, or they get resolved.”

The cases “take up a fair amount of time for our office,” she said, and generally don’t prevent the commercial heavyweights from coming back again.

"They can do it every single year," Sandstad said. “They either exchange ownership, so then intend to come back with new owners, or (they challenge) what they see as changes in the market (valuations)."

Some cases go to trial. In January, the owner of a condo at the Sheraton Duluth Hotel in downtown Duluth challenged their valuation, which has been assessed at $472,600. The case was dismissed without change.

Kohl’s has a trial scheduled for July 7, and a Lowe’s trial is pending, Sandstad reported.

For 2019, 55 petitions were filed. In 2018, the estimated value of properties petitioned was $275.5 million. After challenges, the total was reduced by $30.2 million.

Every year, property owners' taxes are determined using property valuations assessed by the county. Municipal property tax levies for cities, townships, school districts and the county are calculated as percentages against the valuations to determine what property owners owe in local taxes.

Major cases resolved in 2019

  • Miller Hill Mall, $52 million dismissed without change.

  • Benedictine Health, $15.1 million dismissed without change.

  • AAR, $9.9 million reduced to $6.6 million.

  • Menards Hermantown, $9.5 million dismissed without change.

  • Duluth Lakewalk Medical Centers, $8 million and $8.6 million dismissed without change.

  • Fitger’s, $7.9 million dismissed without change.

  • Shopko, $6.1 million dismissed without change.

  • Medical Arts Building, $5.2 million dismissed.

  • Fairfield Hotel Duluth, $4.5 million dismissed.

  • Kitchi Gammi Club, $3.2 million reduced to $1.6 million.

  • Harfel (kitchen showroom), $2.7 million reduced to $2.3 million.

  • Old Maurices building, $2.6 million reduced to $1.1 million.

  • CVS, $2.3 million reduced to $2.1 million.

  • First Northern Building, $2.2 million reduced to $1.7 million.

  • Pike Lake Golf and Beach Club, $2.2 million reduced to $1.75 million.

  • General Mills Elevator, $1.8 million reduced to $550,000.

  • McDonald’s on London Road, $1.5 million dismissed without change.

  • Fanny Rose Building, $1.1 million reduced to $875,000.

Major cases currently pending

  • JJM (Holiday Inn)

  • Edgewater

  • Proctor Motel

  • Super 8

  • Days Inn

  • Kohl’s

  • Lowe’s

  • Walmart

  • Sears

  • Shopko

  • Menards

  • Spirit Valley Mall

  • Miller Trunk Highway Building

  • Highway 53 Plaza Mall

Apartments currently pending

  • Capstone

  • District Flats

  • Gateway

  • Mount Royal Pine

  • Primrose

  • Crest at Lakeshore

This story was updated at 4:14 p.m. Wednesday, May 20 to reflect that the owner of a condo within the Sheraton Duluth Hotel challenged their valuation. It was originally posted at 9 a.m., May 20.