Lawsuit filed against Mercer County assessor for alleged wrong assessment

By Kyla Asbury | May 5, 2017

PRINCETON – A lawsuit has been filed against Mercer County Assessor Sharon Gearhart and the Mercer County Commission after the plaintiff claims it allegedly made a wrong assessment of the value of real property.

Mercer Mall is aggrieved by the assessment of real property located in Mercer County for the 2017 tax year, as Gearhart has assessed the property for $19 million when Mike Hazlewood, a licensed general appraiser, appraised the value of $10 million, according to a complaint filed March 31 in Mercer Circuit Court.

Mercer Mall claims it appeared before the Mercer County Commission on Feb. 6 and contested the assessment and the assessor failed to introduce any evidence to justify the assessed value, except to rely upon the subject property’s cost of construction.

At the hearings, the assessor failed to testify regarding the mandatory factors that contributed to her assessed valuation of the property, as required by West Virginia code and she failed to consider or give weight to functional obsolescence and economic obsolescence in arriving at her assessed valuation based exclusively upon the cost approach to valuation, according to the suit.

Mercer Mall claims Gearhart applied the same assessed valuation for the property that she had set for the preceding six years, despite massive and unprecedented upheavals to the retail industry.

In response to the submission of the fee appraisal, the Mercer County Commission arbitrarily and capriciously insisted that Mercer Mall’s expert witness, Hazlewood, would not be allowed to opine on the true and actual value of the property by using the income approach to valuation, but rather, insisted that the cost approach to valuation was the only approach that would be permitted to be used, according to the suit.

Mercer Mall claims the commission denied any relief.

Mercer Mall is seeking the court to reverse the commission’s decision; order the appraised value to be reduced to $10 million; and order that the excess tax paid be refunded to the tax payer. The mall is being represented by Herschel H. Rose III

Mercer Circuit Court case number: 17-C-146

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