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Hotel Tax Bill Raises Ire

Call it a $5 million disagreement, which amounts to a $73,806 reduction in the John Marshall's property tax bill.

Linwood Aron, chairman of the review board, says he personally inspected the hotel and decided the city assessor had missed the mark — badly. "All the upper floors were in horrible condition," Aron says. "The building is in poor condition."

Not so, says City Assessor Richie McKeithen.

"We increased it based on the renovation work done," says McKeithen, explaining that the building's owner had renovated the building to the tune of $10 million. "We increased it to what we thought the market value was."

State law requires that all real estate in Virginia be assessed at 100 percent of market value. Bolstering the point, McKeithen says the hotel's owner was attempting to sell the hotel to potential buyers for more than $8 million and is expected to sell the hotel in the next few weeks for that amount.

"They were shopping it for $8 million when the board reduced it to $3.1 million," says McKeithen. "We feel as though our value is accurate and is proven in the current asking price."

John Camper, a developer from Hampton Roads who is purchasing the hotel and plans to convert the building into luxury apartments and condos, didn't return phone calls by press time. McKeithen, however, says his office was informed that Camper plans to close on the building in the coming weeks. Camper also plans to spend between $40 and $45 million renovating the property, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

This isn't the first time the historic hotel, built in 1929, has been embroiled in a tax controversy. In 2002, former City Assessor James R. Vinson reduced the assessment of the hotel from $2.933 million to $801,000, against his own staff's recommendations.

The board of review increased that assessment to $2.933 million, however, at the city's request shortly after Vinson's ouster. (He was forced to resign following a court battle and much controversy over the reduction of his own personal property taxes.) — Scott Bass

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