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Property tax dispute stalls senior housing and assisted living facility
County tax collector says developer's request is unfair
BARSTOW • A developer proposing to build a 463-unit senior housing and assisted living facility in town said his company is taking the project to another county if they cannot negotiate a property tax waiver here, while the San Bernardino County Tax Collector says the request would be unfair to other business owners who pay their share.
Some $1 million in property taxes owed on land at the corner of Main Street and Country Club Drive is the only obstacle between beginning construction on the project, said Robert Merritt, a representative of the Gadson Garden Estates. He said the tax bill has blocked completion of the project for the last seven years.
However, San Bernardino County Tax Collector Larry Walker said the tax liability is in accordance with California tax law and that the tax waiver request is “uncompelling.”
“The idea that Mr. Merritt is proposing is not only problematic but offensive to the hundreds of thousands of people in this county who pay their property taxes on time and are relying on me not to compromise the system,” Walker said.
According to Walker, Mr. Merritt purchased the property in 2005 for $25,000 with the obligation to pay an accrued $600,000-plus in property taxes and has failed to make any property tax payments since that time, which have grown to approximately $1 million.
The proposed development would bring thousands of jobs and an infusion of $4 million a year to the local economy, Merritt stated in a press release.
“After having spent well over $2.5 million toward the project over the past five years, we have simply run out of options except to consider moving the project to another county,” Merritt said. “We have tried everything imaginable.”
Merritt said that the developers are not looking to avoid the taxes and have proposed several options to the county, including a payment schedule for which they did not qualify for due to a time limit.
Walker said the time has past for the payment schedule option because the property owner failed to pay the taxes for so long. However, he said if there was a serious proposal to pay even 20 percent of the taxes, he would do all in his jurisdiction under the tax code to allow the developer to begin a payment plan of more than $200,000 a year.