BOE sides with Uinta County on Ryckman value

EVANSTON — The Uinta County Board of Equalization has upheld the assessment of Uinta County Assessor Lori Perkins regarding the value of the Ryckman Creek property now operated by Spire Storage West. 

In Dec. 2017, following a prolonged bankruptcy proceeding, an 80 percent interest in the Ryckman Creek property was purchased by Belle Butte, LLC, doing business as Spire. At that time the property was in the midst of what was described in legal documents as a “death knell” of the bankruptcy proceeding, with a shutdown of the entire business looming. 

Circumstances were dire when Belle Butte purchased the facility for $16 million cash and a $10 million promissory note, as well as an investment guarantee of $15 million over a two-year period. In spring 2018 the property was inspected on-site and assessed for taxation purposes and valued at approximately $91 million. 

That value was appealed by Spire shortly thereafter based on the assertion the sale price should have been considered by the assessor and the actual fair market value for taxation purposes was a drastically-reduced $26 million, an approximately 60-percent decrease in value that would have resulted in a substantial tax savings for Spire but tax loss for the county. 

Documents from the board of equalization said there were several factors to consider for the basis of a determination on the value, including whether the sale transaction was cash or reasonable cash equivalent and whether the sale was made under duress or compulsion. 

The board concluded that the sale of the facility did indeed occur at a time of duress as the closure of the facility was imminent and that the sale was not a cash sale because of the obligation to invest an additional $15 million in the future. Therefore, the assessor’s decision not to base the facility’s value on the transaction was the correct legal action. 

Additionally, the board examined the 2017 assessed value and found it to be consistent with the 2018 value, again providing no basis for the dramatically-reduced value claimed by Spire. 

With the board issuing a decision on the appeal, the facility is valued at approximately $91 million for taxation purposes and 2018 taxes are $659,290.57. Perkins said all back taxes that were outstanding during the bankruptcy proceedings have been paid. 


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