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For 7th consecutive year, Innisbrook sues over ‘defective’ tax assessment

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For the seventh year in a row, the exclusive Innisbrook golf resort in Palm Harbor is contesting a ‘defective’ Pinellas County tax assessment, part of a battle waged on and off since 1998.

Innisbrook is now owned by Virginia-based Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which was founded by Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson. Salamander purchased the resort in 2007, reportedly for $35-million, from Golf Trust, which had taken over the property from Golf Host Resorts.

For nearly 20 years, the various owners of the Innisbrook Resort disputed the lower property-tax bill, beginning with a lawsuit filed in 1998 against the Pinellas County property appraiser by then-owner Golf Host Resorts.

At issue is the correct appraised value of a prime 566-acre parcel that includes 63 holes of golf, a club house, conference centers, tennis courts, spa, pool complex and other facilities.

While a 2004 settlement seemingly put to rest the 1998 complaint — as well as three subsequent lawsuits — the question of the parcel’s value has never been fully resolved. From 2003 to 2004, the property appraiser dropped its valuation of the 566-acre Innisbrook parcel from $31.5-million to $21.9-million, most likely due to the 2004 settlement.

On June 22, Salamander filed suit for the seventh consecutive year, arguing the property’s $18.94-million valuation for 2016 — and the tax bill it generated — was excessive.

Defendants in the suit are Pinellas Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, tax collector Charles Thomas and Florida Department of Revenue Executive Director Leon Biegalski.

 

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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