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Nashua firm's tax fight headed for state’s high court

Union Leader Correspondent

March 17. 2014 8:33PM

NASHUA — A tax abatement case involving a nearly $8 million retail property may be making its way to the state’s highest court.

The city of Nashua and the owners of a retail shopping center at 151 Coliseum Ave., which houses Chunky’s Cinema, continue to dispute the value of an 8-acre parcel and 1972 building that was most recently assessed at about $7.7 million.

Nashua Coliseum LLC of Londonderry initially filed for an abatement of taxes in 2012 at the Hillsborough County Superior Court after its property at 151 Coliseum Ave. was assessed at $7,659,200 in 2011 — an increase of nearly $700,000 over the previous year.

The property owners alleged that the increase “was excessive, disproportionate, unjust and not supported by any material change in the property,” according to court documents.

Although the city and Nashua Coliseum were able to reach a settlement for the 2011 tax abatement, they still have been unable to reach a settlement on a subsequent disagreement involving a 2012 tax assessment of $7,675,520, according to court records.

“Nashua Coliseum does not challenge the city’s increase in value of $16,300 for landscaping and parking lot improvements for tax year 2012, but does challenge the same $700,000 increase in building valuation which was challenged in the 2011 petition,” attorney Michael Tierney says in court documents on behalf of his client.

The city’s attorney, Stephen Bennett, argues in court records that Nashua Coliseum’s appeal to the superior court was for an abatement involving only the 2011 taxes.

“The petition, as filed, does not seek any relief for subsequent tax years,” wrote Bennett. “The taxpayer never filed an application for abatement with respect to the tax year 2012 assessment.”

A superior court judge previously sided with the property owner, prompting the city to file a motion for reconsideration that was ultimately denied.

If the case goes to trial in May as scheduled, Bennett said “any decision granting an abatement would then be appealed by the city to the Supreme Court,” according to court records.

The city is already preparing to take the matter to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, as a request for $18,000 in legal fees will be brought forward this week to the aldermanic Finance Committee for consideration.

Initially, Attorney Anthony Ambriano was hired for $5,000 to help the city with the court case. Now, an additional $18,000 is being sought to pay legal fees for the lengthy tax abatement appeal.

“The Superior Court ruled the taxpayer (Nashua Coliseum) could bring the appeal for 2012 despite the taxpayer’s failure to comply with statutory requirements,” says a memo to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. “It is for this reason that an interlocutory appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court is now necessary.”

Bennett explained in court documents that an interlocutory appeal is appropriate for cases in which a substantial basis exists for a difference of opinion.

This is the city’s second major abatement case to hit the courts in the past year. Last April, the landmark Radisson Hotel was awarded three years of tax abatements from the city — about $800,000 — after winning a civil suit claiming the city issued excessive and disproportionate assessments for the hotel. The city, however, is appealing that ruling.

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