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Wild Rose Casino Assessment Ruling Handed Down

By Staff | Jun 12, 2008

The ongoing dispute over the assessed value of the Wild Rose Casino and Resort has been resolved. The State of Iowa Property Assessment Appeal Board handed down a decision in the appeal on Friday, June 6. The official notification of the decision was received by Palo Alto County Auditor Gary Leonard on Monday, June 9.

At issue was the 2007 assessment of the Wild Rose Casino and Resort property in Emmetsburg, which was established through the use of an outside business appraiser by Palo Alto County Assessor Lois Naig. An appraiser from Vanguard Appraisals of Cedar Rapids set the value of the Wild Rose’s main property off Huron Street, a 58.38 acre tract of land, including the casino, hotel and related facilities, at $20,855,750.

Wild Rose officials appealed that valuation to the Palo Alto County Board of Review with a request to set the valuation at $12,700,560, based on an independent assessment conducted by Fred H. Lock, an appraiser for Iowa Appraisal and Research Corporation of Des Moines.

In the initial appeal to the county Board of Review, the board upheld the original valuation of $20,855.750. The Wild Rose then appealed the valuation to the state Property Assessment Appeal Board.

Legal counsel for both the county and the Wild Rose, along with numerous witnesses, appeared before the three-member State Appeal Board on January 23 of this year in Des Moines to argue the case.

During the appeals hearing, Tom Timmons, Vice President of Operations for Wild Rose Entertainment, LLC, along with Emmetsburg City Administrator John Bird and Iowa State Senator John P, presented testimony. (Jack) Kibbie. The Palo Alto County Board of Review objected to the testimony of the three men, based on the Wild Rose’s claim of an inequity in the assessment, which had not been raised to the county board in the original appeal. The state appeals board decided that it would not entertain the inequity claim by the Wild Rose, instead choosing to address the actual value of the property claimed to be over-assessed.

The state board found that Robert Kocer, representing Vanguard Appraisals, Inc., “In essence, Kocer has effectively operated as the assessor in this matter.”

The ruling by the state appeal board noted, “both parties agree that the market value for the property could not be established through the “sales price” approach alone. The market value must be determined by the use of the “other factors” approach.”

The board noted that it believed that it would be likely that the property would continue to be used as a casino, and must be valued as a casino, “but not taking into account any special use value attributed by the owners.”

In its review of the evidence presented, the State Appeals Board found that the Lock appraisal to be a more complete and informative appraisal, but also noted that Lock’s appraisal “is not without flaws. Mr. Lock’s appraisal excludes the construction costs for the fourth floor of the hotel, escalators, the elevators, the carpet and ceiling tiles in the gaming area, the west entrance and a portion of the land. These factors should have been accounted for in the appraisal.”

In its final conclusion of law, the Appeals Board stated, “the Appeal Board finds that there is substantial evidence to support a finding that the value is less than the assessed value determined by the assessor.”

The conclusion continues, “The Board determines that the assessed value of the subject property is $16,500,000 as of January 1, 2007. We modify the decision of the Palo Alto County Board of Review.”

Richard Stradley, Presiding officer of the board, and board member Jacqueline Rypma, signed the ruling.

Based on the ruling of the state board, the 2008 value of the Wild Rose has been set at $16,500,000 by County Assessor Lois Naig. Under the Code of Iowa, should the Wild Rose wish to appeal that valuation, they have until Friday, June 20, to appeal to the county Board of Review.