Capital Centre owner Abe Pollin yesterday abandoned his five-year effort to retain tax-exempt status for his sports and concert arena in Largo and paid Prince George's County $2.2 million in back taxes.
In an agreement with Country Executive Lawrence Hogan, Pollin said he will also withdraw an appeal the arena's tax status that is now pending before Maryland's highest court. $"tWe're getting every penny of the taxes owned us since this thing began, plus interest," said Hogan, "The center will pay taxes like any other tax-payer."
Since 1974 when county tax assessor Harry Shipp ruled that the arena should be taxed, Pollin has fought the issue in court, arguing that the 60-acre site, under lease from region's park and planning commission, is actually a park. In Maryland, parks are exempt from property taxes.
Two separate legal battles have been waged in the years since -- one over the tax status of the $20 million facility and another over the land leased for the complex. As Pollin has challenged the rulings on the center's tax status, he has kept in escrow the amount of money he would have to pay in the event he lost the case.
Last June, the state Court of Special Appeals ruled against Pollin's claim that his center was a park. The arena and its massive parking lot, the court said, "can hardly be said to enhance the purpose of a park . . . rather they enhance the commerical interest" of the arena's owners. Pollin's lawyers appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeals, the hightest court in the state, but dropped the case as part of yesterday's agreement.
In May 1978, Pollin lost the other case over the center's tax status when the Court of Appeals ruled that Shipp, as country assessor, had the sole power to decide whether the the facility was taxable.
According to Country Attorney Robert Ostrom, the country did not try to collect the back taxes until yesterday because it wanted to determine the taxes for the entire complex and not separate the land from the building. Two checks for the total amount of back taxes -- $2.2 million -- were delivered yesterday, Ostrom said.
Glenn T. Harrell Jr., lawyer for the Capital Centre, said yesterday that the agreement was worked out after the May 1978 ruling, which "wiped out our victories in lower courts," and the possibility of any further court decision in their favor became "less certain."