Judge dismisses lawsuit against Warren County

FRONT ROYAL – A lawsuit filed against Warren County by Sysco regarding a property assessment dispute was recently dismissed by Judge Ronald Napier in Warren County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit claimed that Warren County’s assessment of Sysco’s property at 1000 Baugh Drive was too high and resulted in the company paying too much in real estate taxes. The county was represented by the Richmond-based law firm Sands Anderson, and was awarded dismissal Jan. 10.

The county’s assessment, completed by Wingate Assessments, valued the property at $66.4 million from 2012-2015 and at $64.9 million in 2015. Sysco’s assessment, completed by Valbridge Property Advisors, valued the property at $39 million all four years. Sysco also disagreed with the county’s 2011 assessment, but the lawsuit was filed in 2015, and they could only appeal assessments dating back three years.

Using the lower appraisal, Sysco argued that they paid $711,088 too much in real estate taxes, County Attorney Dan Whitten said.

“They basically thought their tax bill should be lower,” he said

Sands Anderson hired an expert appraiser, Appraisal Group Inc., in preparation for trial, Whitten said. Their assessments were similar to the county’s.

Whitten said appraisers use one of three methods to establish a property’s value. Those include a market approach, a cost approach, and an income approach.

In the market approach, appraisers compare the property to similar ones nearby. Sysco’s Northeast Redistribution is about 839,000 square feet on 139 acres, Whitten said. Since Sysco’s facility is so large, he said, there were no county properties to which appraisers could compare it.

“That was the issue they ran into, because it’s such a large facility,” he said.

So, they opted for the cost approach, which includes calculating costs of replacing the structure with a similar one.

Whitten said Napier should file the final order shortly, after which Sysco will have 30 days to appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court. He does not know if there will be an appeal.

Sysco Director of External Communications Camilla Zuckero said over a phone message that the company “will not be providing comment at  this time.”