Canterbury Ct. denied PILOT by Warren Co.

The Warren County Housing Authority’s application for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) at Canterbury Court in downtown Warren has been denied by the county, and the authority said it will pursue the request in court.

“Every document we have says it is a tax-exempt body,” Authority Executive Director Tonya Mitchell-Weston said of the denial during Tuesday afternoon’s board of directors meeting. “The next step is we go to court.”

Canterbury Court was originally a housing project backed by a church that retained ownership of the property, and instituted a property board, but the housing authority has acted as manager.

The county currently does not grant the property tax-exempt status and property taxes on the site are approximately $90,000 per year.

“Bottom answer from the lawyer was go to court?” Board Chair Mike Lewis asked.

“Go to court,” Mitchell-Weston said. “We’re housing 50 of our eldest seniors in the county, that counts for something.”

Canterbury Court has always paid taxes, Mitchell-Weston said, but in 2011 the amount was more than doubled from about $40,000 to $90,000, an “outrageous request,” she said.

The board has since appealed and is working to refinance the property’s mortgage. The owner of the property is the Rouse-Brokenstraw Associates Corporation which is represented by its board.

Through its appeal, the board did have its payment reduced by “several thousand” dollars, but Mitchell-Westons said, “It should not of been taxed in the first place because of who it serves.”

Members of Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church make up the board for Canterbury Court, which has a capacity of 50 residents with two openings, she said.

“We would’ve been happy with a PILOT,” she said adding the authority and Canterbury Court are nearly identical in “who we house and how we operate it – it’s all the same.”

Mitchell-Weston also said when she attempted to apply for the PILOT, “I was told there was no application, there was no means to do so.”

“There’s no means to do so,” she said citing a letter from the county to the authority’s lawyer in Pittsburgh, who believes the dispute can be resolved within the year.

“We believe firmly it should be exempt or under a PILOT,” she said.