On May 28, 2015, the Florida Circuit Court in Escambia County granted summary judgment to the tax authorities in a case challenging the taxation of 12 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to Portofino condominiums. Island Resort Investments, Inc., v. Jones et al., No. 2011-ca-002367 (Fla. 1st Cir. Escambia Cnty.).
The ruling states that leasees have an “equitable ownership” in the leased land--and not just the improvements--and therefore the land is subject to ad-valorem taxes. This is similar to the Florida Supreme Court rulings last year on the taxability of leasehold improvements on Pensacola Beach (1108 Ariola) and leasehold land and improvements on Navarre Beach (Accardo).
The Escambia Courts have not yet ruled on two additional cases challenging the taxation of the leased land of the Portofino and Beach Club condominiums. Once these rulings are issued, assuming the conclusions are the same, Pensacola Beach Advocates will press the County to eliminate lease fees altogether.
In the meantime, PBA is continuing to work with the SRIA and Escambia County Board of Commissioners to effect a substantial lease fee reduction effective October 1, 2015.