The owner of the Maine Mall has lost another bid to reduce South Portland’s assessment of its property and the size of its tax bill.

The city’s Board of Assessment Review, in a 5-0 vote, upheld the $242 million figure after a hearing Friday at South Portland City Hall.

The decision marks another step in a long-running dispute between the city and its largest taxpayer.

This time, General Growth Properties was contesting the 2009 assessment of eight parcels that make up the Maine Mall. An appraisal paid for by the mall owner valued the property at $181 million.

The mall’s 2009 property tax bill was $3.5 million. If the owner had won its appeal, the city would owe the company about $900,000 plus interest.

The review board also ruled in favor of the city when General Growth Properties appealed a 2006 assessment. The mall owner further appealed that decision to the state Board of Property Tax Review, which also sided with the city.

South Portland spent $76,000 to defend that case and continues to accrue bills on such expenses as appraisals and lawyers, said city Assessor Elizabeth Sawyer. She said the bill to hire a stenographer and get transcriptions of the recent Board of Assessment Review hearings was $4,000.

Jon Goldberg, a Portland attorney representing General Growth Properties, said Friday afternoon that he didn’t know yet whether his client would appeal to the state property tax board again.

He did say the Chicago-based company, which bought the mall for $270 million in 2003, has started the process of appealing the city’s 2010 assessment of $211 million.

At the crux of the mall owner’s argument is a complex theory that shopping centers deserve deductions from their tax bill because of the intangible value of deals made between the mall developer and anchor tenants, said Paul Cloutier, chairman of the assessment review board.

Often in those deals, the developer pays the anchor to open in the mall and, in exchange, the tenant agrees not to close its store for a certain period of time, Cloutier said.

Those deductions make the difference between the city’s assessment and the one done for the mall by David Lennhoff, a leading proponent of the theory.

Cloutier said it was up to General Growth Properties to prove that the city’s assessment was wrong. “We found they didn’t meet the burden of proof,” he said.

Two board members didn’t vote Friday because they hadn’t heard all of the testimony given at other hearings in April and May.


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