DEWITT, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A ruling is now expected next week on whether the owner of Shoppingtown Mall will have to pay millions of dollars in back taxes.
State Supreme Court Justice Anthony Paris reserved decision after testimony and closing arguments ended Monday in a Syracuse courtroom.
The case was brought by Erie LLC, representing Benderson Development, which bought the mall’s Macy’s property in 2015.
They claim by failing to pay taxes, Moonbeam has harmed their business interests in the mall property.
The DeWitt Supervisor Ed Michalenko says the Town, which has a claim to some of that tax money, is interested in the case and tracking it.
Michalenko says the Town has had numerous conversations with Moonbeam over the years about redeveloping the mall.
He says those talks began with a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) offer not long after Moonbeam bought Shoppingtown Mall at auction in the Fall of 2013.
“It was Steven Maskin’s (Moonbeam Capital CEO) position that the tax agreement be put in place before anything happened and all we were looking for was some kind of assurance that something was going to happen,” Michalenko tells NewsChannel 9.
He says the Town never saw any plans, drawings, or potential clients.
Michalenko says he and other town officials initiated conversations with various retailers, like IKEA, about coming to Shoppingtown but with no luck.
Moonbeam countered, he says, with the idea of a call center for part of the mall space.
“Sure, we’d like to see the call center, but there never was an organization or company that we could talk to and verify they had a legitimate tenant,” he says.
Michalenko says the Town made other offers like grant programs, energy incentives and financial inducements to encourage Moonbeam to redevelop Shoppingtown Mall.
“Most of the programs, types of ideas that we threw at them, they were unresponsive,” he tells NewsChannel 9.
Michalenko says the best plan for Shoppingtown would likely be a mixed use of living, retail, commercial, entertainment and office, even possibly a hotel.
Moonbeam has maintained the assessment on Shoppingtown Mall is too high, making the tax bill unfairly high.
The mall owner has tried unsuccessfully to get that assessment reduced.
Michalenko says Shoppingtown Mall’s assessment is lower than most strip malls in the Town and on a square foot basis, lower than some truck terminals and warehouses in DeWitt.