Appeals offer more revenue threats


Matt Churella

Richland Township supervisors' solicitor Gary Costlow at an Oct. 29 meeting.

Alyssa Coleman, Opinions Editor

Owners of four business properties in Richland Township have once again filed appeals of their assessed property values and will now be going to Cambria County Court.

Lowes, Walmart and Bel Air Plaza all have been either decreased in value or were denied a value reduction, and have filed appeals to those decisions.

Bottling Group LLC (Pepsi) also asked for a court hearing to consider whether its property assessment was too high.

Richland Township Solicitor Gary Costlow said at an Oct. 29 supervisors’ meeting that the next step will be for the Cambria County Court to have a conference with lawyers for each of the properties’ owners on Dec. 17.

“The court judge will meet with the lawyers and discuss the appeal,” Costlow said, “The judge will then decide whether they are entitled to a reduction or if their (valuations) stand.”

When property values are decreased, the taxes on those properties also decrease, meaning less revenue for the township, Richland School District and Cambria County.

According to Costlow, he has between now and Dec. 17 to meet with Richland School District Solicitor Tim Leventry to discuss challenges to the businesses’ appeals.

“We need to think about how to approach this,” Costlow said.

The former Ponderosa and Ryan’s restaurants that were bought by Alletram LLC of Aventura, Florida, who also had appeals filed for their value reductions, had their values reduced.

Costlow said that Martella’s Pharmacy is planning to open a medical marijuana dispensary and growing site in place of the former restaurants.

Martella’s did not respond to email requests for comments.

Lowes and Bottling Group LLC were both denied property value reductions, while Bel Air Plaza was decreased by $171,190 and Walmart decreased by $671,600.

The school district would be hit the hardest by further property devaluations.

“The school tax is around five to six times higher than Richland Township tax,” Costlow said.

“The school has to pay the teachers and buy supplies, so if property values are reduced, the school district has to make up that money somehow, so taxes would have to be raised.”