Drury Hotel in Chesterfield Loses Five-Year-Old Tax Appeal

Death and taxes: Drury learned this one the hard way.
Death and taxes: Drury learned this one the hard way.
When St. Louis County assessed Chesterfield's new Drury Plaza Hotel at $23.1 million in 2006, even though the hotel had not yet opened, the owners cried foul. The St. Louis-based company proffered its own appraisal of the property -- this one showing a starkly different value: just $13.5 million.

That kicked off years of legal wrangling. The hotel appealed to the State Tax Commission -- which ruled in the county's favor. But when the hotel appealed again, this time in circuit court, it won.

But today, more than five years after the county assessor first made his appraisal, the Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the county. The $23.1 million assessment, it ruled, should stand.

That means the hotel will be paying an extra $254,000 in tax revenue, says Sara Howard, a spokeswoman for the county.
Much of that sum, or $107,000, goes to the Parkway School District, Howard says, with the rest of it sliced and diced among numerous other entities, from the state of Missouri to the local fire district.

But while the decision is good news for the school district, it's not such good news for the increasing number of property owners challenging their tax valuations.

In their decision, the appellate judges ruled that

Despite Drury's contentions, it has not produced substantial or persuasive evidence that the Commission relied on anything but the true value in money or its value in exchange....Although the hearing officer states that Drury failed to meet its burden of proof because it failed to present an opinion of market value and substantial and persuasive evidence that the value it proposed is indicative of the market value of the subject property, we find instead that Drury failed to meet its burden because it failed to overcome the presumption that Assessor's valuation is correct.
D'ya hear that, huddled masses yearning to pay lower taxes? The burden of proof is on you -- not the taxman. Definitely something worth thinking about before you spend five-and-a-half years fighting one of these.

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of the RFT and its sister papers. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and continues to host its Legal Roundtable, as well participating as an occasional panelist on Nine PBS' Donnybrook. She lives in St. Louis.
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