Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

ORLANDO-In an ongoing battle to remove billboards from Orange County’s landscape, Property Appraiser Bill Donegan is using an evaluation method that more than quadruples annual taxes on the sites. The owners claim Donegan’s move is illegal and are suing him and the county in state court.

“It isn’t going to hurt the big guys so much as the local property owners who lease their sites to the nationals,” says an Orlando real estate lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs. “The problem for the little guys comes when their leases to the nationals forbid them to raise the rent in order to pass along the increased tax assessment.”

But the major national billboard owners are upset as well, according to local industrial real estate brokers who represent their interests in Orlando. “Nobody wants to see their tax load go up by 10 times or more in a single year,” says the broker who spoke to GlobeSt.com on conditions of anonymity.

Leading the owners group is Clear Channel Outdoor of Phoenix, the nation’s largest billboard company. Clear Channel and the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association declined comment to GlobeSt.com, citing current court proceedings.

Donegan’s action is the first of its kind among Florida’s 67 counties, according to court records. He made the move after the strong national billboard industry lobby persuaded Florida lawmakers to force counties to reimburse billboard owners with immediate cash payments of $100,000 or more when counties arbitrarily remove the billboards.

Donegan and his staff used estimated evaluations of the billboard property from the owners themselves to revise the tax assessments, property appraiser staffers confirm. For example, about 90% of the 900 billboard sites last year were taxed at less than $5,000 each. This year’s tax rolls, however, have the same properties valued for tax purposes at $35,000 to $50,000. Donegan’s staff estimates the new valuation method could add about $600,000 to the county’s coffers.

Donegan’s office contends billboard property owners should revise their leases, allowing them to pass along increased taxes to their tenants. The new fight with billboard property owners is old hat for Donegan, a former Orange County commissioner and Maitland, FL retailer.

He is also being sued separately by some of the county’s largest landowners and hotel investors who claim his decision to tax some agriculture-zoned land as tourist-zoned dirt is illegal and unfair.

Donegan argues in court papers that planting pine trees and creating citrus groves on land that has already been sold or will be sold for commercial development is a subterfuge by owners to receive a lower annual tax assessment.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Once you are an ALM digital member, you’ll receive:

  • Unlimited access to GlobeSt and other free ALM publications
  • Access to 15 years of GlobeSt archives
  • Your choice of GlobeSt digital newsletters and over 70 others from popular sister publications
  • 1 free article* every 30 days across the ALM subscription network
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM events and publications

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

Dig Deeper

GlobeSt. NET LEASE Spring 2021Event

This conference brings together the industry's most influential & knowledgeable real estate executives from the net lease sector.

Get More Information


Join GlobeSt

Don't miss crucial news and insights you need to make informed commercial real estate decisions. Join GlobeSt.com now!

  • Free unlimited access to GlobeSt.com's trusted and independent team of experts who provide commercial real estate owners, investors, developers, brokers and finance professionals with comprehensive coverage, analysis and best practices necessary to innovate and build business.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and GlobeSt events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com.

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join GlobeSt

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.