wtf? #3 Board of Revision (Atrium 1)

wtf? is a series of posts dedicated to holding a spotlight on the mysterious and un-explainable decisions of the Hamilton County Board of Revision, currently composed of Auditor Dusty Rhodes (since 1990), County Commissioner Chris Monzel (since 2011) and Treasurer, Robert A. Goering (since 1992).  Both Mr. Rhodes and Monzel are up for re-election in November.

Good news, Cincinnati.  We’ve got a new property tax payer in town.


Atrium 1 at 201 E. Fourth was built in 1980 and the Auditor’s records indicate an Urban Renewal Debt Retirement Abatement was used to finance this property with the land taxable, improvements abated for as long as the bonds were outstanding.  On 6/18/2014 a new note was entered saying that the Auditor’s office received the Release and Termination of Service Agreement from the City of Cincinnati for the tax year 2014, payable in 2015.

It only took 34 years, but I might live long enough to see this building contribute a direct financial benefit to our community. Exactly how much of a financial benefit, that remains to be decided.

Because there’s a pattern on abated properties that is so predictable you can set your watch by it.

On 4/16/2010 the owner filed a complaint with the Hamilton County Board of Revision challenging the value of $69,800,000, a value I’m assuming was tied to the outstanding bond issue plus the $6,115,200 value assigned to the land.  They asked for $66,000,000, not even 4 million bucks.  A pittance.  And the Board of Revision turned them down cold.  Please note that the owner asked for the reduction exactly 30 years after the Urban Renewal debt was originally issued, the standard time period of mortgage bonds.  

Oh, that mean old Board of Revision!  But don’t worry, Citizens.  The very next year there is a regularly scheduled reappraisal for all the properties in Hamilton County (they happen every 3 years) – and something magical happens.  The value is dropped almost 27% to $51,000,000.

Which one would think would make the owner very, very happy.  Not quite.  The owner, Asset Ohio Fourth St. LLC, sells the building on 7/22/13 to  CVG Partners II LLC for $43,400,000 and they file a complaint with the Board of Revision to reduce the value to the price they paid for the property.  The hearing was scheduled for earlier this month and the auditor’s site states the Board has 4-6 weeks to reach a conclusion and post it to the public records.  They will determine the validity of this claim by paying a professional appraiser to assess if the sale was an authentic “arm’s length transaction.”

Was it?

I can’t tell.  But there are some interesting coincidences in the public records on the Ohio Secretary of State Business Search that make me wonder.  Both Asset Ohio Fourth St. LLC and CVG Partners II LLC use the same agent to handle communications regarding their holdings:  CT Corporate Systems out of Cleveland.  CVG Partners II LLC was formed just before the purchase of the building on 6/21/2013 and it was incorporated in the state of Delaware as a foreign limited liability company.  Their application includes a contact address “to which interested persons may direct requests for copies of limited liability company agreement bylaws and other charter documents of the company” and the address is in Cincinnati at 312 Elm.

Yes, Citizens.  I’m interested enough to write that letter.  Very, very interested.  I have no idea what I might find in those documents, but it’s worth the price of a stamp to see.  My analysis of the public records has not left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.  It’s not any one building that makes me suspicious.  It’s the predictability of the pattern on commercial properties in Cincinnati, that’s what makes my stomach queasy.

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