Judge rules owner of Shoppingtown Mall has 14 days to pay back taxes

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ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — In just 14 days, Moonbeam has to pay $9.7 million.

Judge Anthony Paris made his ruling based on law, but his decision does little to hide his disdain for the way Moonbeam has dodged paying taxes for years.

Judge Paris says Moonbeam’s conduct in regards to the tax issue has been based on a strategy rooted in obstinance and bad faith.

The lawsuit was filed over two years ago by Benderson Development, which bought the Macy’s property at Shoppingtown in 2015 from the retailer. It sued Moonbeam, claiming the mall owner’s failure to pay taxes is not only making it difficult to redevelop this part of the mall, but also putting it in imminent jeopardy of being lost to the county.

Moonbeam’s position has been that it has been challenging its tax bill in good faith, which it legally has a right to do.

The judge says based on all the evidence, Moonbeam’s actions “totally lack any semblance of good faith” in dealing with its obligation to pay taxes on the mall.

The evidence shows Moonbean has not paid any taxes since 2015 and the four-year bill now totals nearly $10 million. 

Onondaga County has reimbursed the Town of DeWitt for this sum.

The mall owner claims it was excused from paying taxes because it was acting in good faith to lower the amount it’s being charged.

Judge Paris, in no uncertain terms, found Moonbeam “has dismally failed to meet this burden of proof.”

The assessment, and therefore taxes, were already lowered for the previous owner and the final amount settled on in 2015 and by law, Moonbeam couldn’t challenge its tax bills for three years.

However, that didn’t stop Moonbeam from contesting and challenging that in court.

The judge railed that Moonbeam “through these baseless court proceedings has caused the local taxpayers to incur legal fees to address these court challenges” and wonders how this conduct “evidences good faith mystifies the court.”

The county has made two multi-faceted offers to resolve the tax issue. Moonbeam countered with a $1 million payment over 10 years to settle it all. A second offer of $3 million paid over 10-years and a redevelopment plan was rejected by the county as well.

County Executive Ryan McMahon testified it is time to “stop the bleeding of the county taxpayers who have so far footed the bill for defendant’s (Moonbeam) brazen failure to pay its taxes.”

McMahon testified it is the county’s intent to foreclose on the property on January 1st if the taxes aren’t paid, which at that point, will total almost $12 million.

Onondaga County Executive McMahon issued a statement that said:

“The decision today is not only good news for taxpayers, but the community at large. The ruling reaffirmed what we have known all along: if you want to be a productive member of our community then you need to pay your taxes. We deserve better than a tax delinquent, vacant mall and my administration is committed to seeing this property revitalized and redeveloped.”

To read Judge Paris’ decision,  you can click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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