The ruling was delivered Jan. 26 in Illinois First District Appellate Court by Justice Margaret McBride, with concurrence from Justices Eileen O’Neill Burke and David Ellis. The court filed the ruling under Supreme Court Rule 23, which means it may not be cited as precedent, except in the limited circumstances permitted by the rule.
The decision favored the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board in its quarrel with West Loop Associates, LLC., owners of an 18-story office building at 550 W. Jackson Boulevard, across the street from Union Station.
The Cook County assessor valued the 16-year-old building at $96 million for the tax years 2009 to 2011, but West Loop asked the tax appeal board to lower that amount. The board reduced the value to $70 million, but West Loop said the value should be cut further, to $58 million, based on its appraiser’s report. A tax hearing was set on the matter.
The city of Chicago's appraiser stepped in and put the value at $74 million. The city also filed a motion five days before the hearing, demanding West Loop be barred at the hearing from disputing the city's physical description of the building. The reason? The city alleged West Loop never responded to the appraiser's request to inspect the building's interior.
West Loop tried to block the motion, alleging the city “sprung” the filing at the last minute. West Loop claimed its failure to respond was “inadvertent” and the city never tried to resolve the issue before resorting to the motion.
The board granted the city’s motion and the hearing went ahead, with the board raising the value to $74 million. West Loop then appealed, claiming the granting of the motion cast a “pall” over West Loop at the hearing.
Justice McBride brushed aside the idea the motion caught West Loop flat-footed, noting there was no deadline by which the city had to file the motion. Further, instead of lodging a motion five days before the hearing, the city could have simply raised the same issues during the hearing itself without a motion, giving West Loop no time at all to prepare a response.
West Loop also failed to show how it was “meaningfully curtailed” from making its case at the hearing, especially given neither party disputed to any degree the “description, physical characteristics, and condition of the property,” according to McBride.
The justice went on to say West Loop’s arguments about the motion were “based on form rather than any substance.”
West Loop’s appraiser also came under criticism.
McBride pointed out the board described the appraiser’s methods as “self-validating and contradictory to accepted appraisal practice,” with the appraiser making “illogical and unsupported statements throughout the hearing.”
For her own part, McBride said West Loop’s appraisal was “unreliable” and the testimony of its appraiser was “confusing.”
West Loop Associates has been represented by the Chicago firm of Fisk, Kart, Katz & Regan.
According to Cook County property tax records, the owners of the building – which sits on three parcels with different property identification numbers (PINs) – paid a total of about $3.67 million in taxes for the property in tax year 2015.