August 5, 2008

Judges Uphold Guilford Mills Property Values

By Peter E. Bortner, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.

Aug. 5--Guilford Mills Inc. must accept the assessed values totaling more than $9.5 million on its two properties in Pine Grove, a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel has ruled by a 2-1 vote.

In a 12-page opinion made available Monday in Pottsville, Judge Dante R. Pellegrini affirmed county Judge D. Michael Stine's 2007 ruling that the properties are worth $9,685,250.

"The trial court did not abuse its discretion and its orders are affirmed," Pellegrini wrote in his opinion, which Judge Bernard L. McGinley joined.

Stine set the values only 5 percent lower than those proposed by Michael J. McCloskey Jr., Media, the certified real estate appraiser employed by the county, and substantially more than those proposed by the company's experts, Alan W. Kaplan, Frackville, and Frederick M. Lesavoy, Allentown.

Those properties are the 25.2-acre one on Wideawake Street on which sits the Gold Mills factory, where man-made fabrics are produced, and the 16.31-acre one on Tulpehocken Street on which sits the Penn Dye factory, on which fabrics are dyed and finished. Stine ruled the Gold Mills property is worth $4,593,250 and the Penn Dye one is worth $5,092,000.

Pellegrini wrote that Stine's explanation of why he substantially believed McCloskey -- that he used the "cost approach" of reproducing or replacing the existing buildings -- is sufficient to justify his decision.

"The trial court was required to state the basis and reasons for finding the County's expert more credible than (Guilford Mills'). Here, the trial court did just that," Pellegrini wrote.

Stine said he found McCloskey's testimony more compelling, which is the same as giving it more weight, and such a judgment is for the trial court to make, Pellegrini wrote.

Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt dissented, writing in her four-page opinion that Stine's terming McCloskey's testimony to be "more compelling" needed to be explained. Furthermore, Leavitt wrote, Stine found McCloskey's opinion flawed because he had not considered location factors mentioned by Kaplan and Lesavoy.


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