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.